Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Tellytubbies on the Web! Terrific! No so terrific is the way in which the Beeb carefully put the TubbyFrighteners on anyone who dared to put images of the psychedelia-for-toddlers show on the Web previously.

Tellytubbies on the Web! Terrific! No so terrific is the way in which the Beeb carefully put the TubbyFrighteners on anyone who dared to put images of the psychedelia-for-toddlers show on the Web previously. I was peripherally involved in one such site, where the owner was busy creating a whole new alternative background for the Tellytubbies. He'd got as far as them being mutant survivors of a nuclear apocalyse, being bred for food by underground controllers: my solitary contribution was suggesting that the toddler's face in the sun was in fact David Bowman from 2001, after his transmutation into the StarChild.

All good clean fun. But it was not to be: Aunty caught wind of such errant creativity and caused the removal of unauthorised images, double-quick. I know all the issues about copyright on the Web, but when you can buy ripped-off Tellytubby T-shirts in any street market it seems a real shame to stomp on something so harmless.

Tuesday

According to the Wall Street Journal, a Bulgarian state institute of computing - previously dedicated to virus, er, detection - has 'solved the millennium bug'. That's awfully clever, given that said bug is in fact a huge range of algorithmic, implementation and conceptual errors in an even larger range of formats. Nevertheless, those canny Bulgars have cracked it. One solution for a million problems.

How? "Send us $500 and we'll tell you", they say. Wonder if it cures piles, dropsy and ague too?

If anyone out there fancies finding out, send the dosh to me. I'll make sure you get the full story. Ho yus. And while I'm at it, that fancy Tower Bridge thingy outside my window here is being flogged off, and I know a bloke on the council that can do you a really good deal...

Wednesday

From AT&T's press conference explaining just why its entire frame relay network (you know, the one that runs America's cashpoints, credit checks and card authorisations) went down for 24 hours.

Frank Ianna, executive VP: "I have yet to pinpoint exactly what that particular problem was. Probably some type of hardware or software or combination of that type of problem."

Thanks, Frank. I was afraid the coal-fired boiler had sprung a leak...

Thursday

Spaceman time! I go off to see Herr Thomas Loewenthal, MD of Iridium Communications Germany GmbH. Iridium is one of those astonishing satellite-based telephone systems with loads of orbiting hardware (sixty-odd satellites, in this case) and a rather indistinct marketing strategy. As a long-term fan of all things orbital, I'm delighted to learn that the company has managed to produce a satellite per week for more than a year and has been getting them up (so to speek) with astonishing regularity. The first mass-production use of space.

If all goes well, the final batch of birds goes up on Sunday, and the service goes live in September. Who'll use it? "The universal citizen," apparently - in other words, the sort of chap who lives in London but works on a huge project in Siberia. There's a range of phones - they look like rather old handheld phones with big warts on the back - that automatically choose your local GSM provider or Iridium, depending on what's more appropriate. And there's a pager, which might work indoors.

Will the system work? Yes. Will it make any money? Doubt it. Do I want one? Of course. Would I pay 'between $3 and $7 a minute'? Nope. If I was on a huge Siberian construction site? Yep.

It all depends on how many factories get built in the deserts of the world. Iriduim is bold, ingenious and brave - as Sir Humphrey would put it. I wish them luck.

Friday

If you're using a PDA, be careful. If it goes wrong, don't assume you'll be able to get it fixed and - more worryingly - don't assume you'll be able to read any of your old data. Word reaches us of an HP 200 owner whose machine died, gracelessly. But he'd been a sensible chap and had backed up all his data.

He phoned up HP and asked 'What format is this data in, so I can get it out of the Intuit and Quicken files?' HP said: "We don't know. We don't have any record of that." Our friend asked more firmly, and HP went and grilled the engineers responsible. No good - they'd forgotten or pulped the printouts or something, and the company was completely unable to help.

In the end, chummy had to go into the files with text editor and cut-and-paste stuff out. He was not impressed, and neither are we: after all, the HP 200 was still available not so long ago. The moral of this story is - if you can't even trust HP to keep that sort of information, better get used to taking backups in longhand. You could even keep them in a handy, portable format - say a three-ring binder? A sort of file of facts...

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