Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Still at the wettest Glastonbury on record. It's awful - foot-deep mud, nowhere to sit down, cold, damp and windy.

Still at the wettest Glastonbury on record. It's awful - foot-deep mud, nowhere to sit down, cold, damp and windy. Or so the newspapers would have you believe: fact is, all of the above is true and yet everyone's having a brilliant time. Well, except for three groups of people - first, the bloke found dead in his tent; second, those who've been ripped off by the tent thieves (who've taken to using a hot wire coat hanger to burn their way into nylon tents, because it's quiet), and third, those poor souls in the Dance Tent. The organisers despatched a tanker on the back of a tractor to suck out the liquid mud which was preventing dancing (or motion of any kind): alas, said tanker had just been used to empty the infamous Glastonbury Bogs, and some bright spark switched it to `blow' instead of `suck'.

There's a lot of technology around, too. A roving reporter with a head-mounted camera is feeding the Greenpeace website, linking images back to base via microwave and a solar-powered backpack. I start chatting to some other environmental activists, who ask me `got any ideas for finding a whaler in the South Pacific'? Turns out this is very non-trivial: the whalers now observe military conditions of radio silence, so you can't direction-find them. Of course, it's getting quite cheap to launch your own satellite these days...

Tuesday

The trusty pigeon-grey Skoda extracts us from the mud of the Glastonbury car park (teehee - all around, the Volvos and Fords are being towed out by tractor. Schadenfreude!) Arrive back at work terribly late and rather distant, to find Psion Software has turned into Symbian and is now the shining hope for all those who mistrust Windows CE's ability to fulfil its promise.

It's certainly started in a noteworthy fashion. If you try and find the website but type in www.sybian.com instead, you get a completely different sort of technology addressing a completely different class of problem. We can't really go into details, but merely note that Symbian ("to create a major engine of growth for Wireless Information Devices") is up against Sybian ("the ultimate in sexual gratification for women").

Wednesday

Tesco is to become an ISP. Whatever next? Ten bits for the price of a byte? Entire graveyards of information for five pee? A bit of digging, and it turns out that lots of people are thinking of becoming ISPs - football teams, finance companies, even David Bowie.

What's behind this? Vanity ISP provision was never so easy: companies like BT and ICL will happily do you a deal whereby they'll run a complete packaged ISP in your name. Oddly, nobody seems too keen to talk about this: there are dark hints of projects being kidnapped and divisional infighting, and a steady scent of internecine politics. Still, lots of companies are seeing ISPhood as being just as much fun as owning their own radio station, and with as many possibilities for force-feeding the punter predigested opportunities to purchase. Of course, the price for access will be discounted - who'd be an ordinary ISP? Cliff Stanford's sale of Demon looks more and more like a masterstroke, at least as far as timing's concerned.

Thursday

"Watch this", said my giggling pal as he showed me a page on the Microsoft web site. He then added "::$DATA" to the end of the URL, and resubmitted it. A script appeared, with - no! Yes! - embedded server names and passwords for databases within the Microsoft organisation.

"Is that a bug in NT?" I asked. "The same NT that runs Terraserver, the demonstration database of geographical images that MS put up to show how scalable the operating system is..."

"... but merely served to show that most of its users got turned away because it was too busy? Yes, the same NT" said the pal.

"So that's two major public fluffs in a week?"

"Four, if you count Windows98's problems in installing cleanly over the top of Win95 and the $5 million settlement MS had to make to the owners of the Internet Explorer trademark."

Good old Microsoft. Who needs to say anything more?

Friday

You've heard of MP3, of course. That's MPEG 1 level 3 audio compression - not MPEG 3, which doesn't exist - and it is the avenging angel that'll kick seven kinds of plague out of the music industry. It compresses proper hi-fi stereo audio down to a size where you can consider downloading tracks or complete albums from the Internet: of course, loads of naughty people have already set up archives of thousands of records for the delight of loads of other naughty people, to the shrill cries of dismay from the CD producers.

That's not what's going to puncture their balloon though. What's going to thoroughly fricassee those who wax fat on selling us 40p of polycarbonate in a £13.99 shrink-wrapped package is the advent of people like Goodnoise (www.goodnoise.com) and The Cambridge Design Partnership (http://www.cdpl.demon.co.uk/ufi/pics.html). Goodnoise has set itself up as what will undoubtedly be known as a next-gen record label - bands sign up, and MP3 images of their music are available for sample and sale via the website. Distribution? Manufacturing? Retail? Bu-bye. Meanwhile, CDP has built a matchbox-sized player that takes a standard memory card with an MP3 image on it, and plays it. It's like a Minidisc, but much smaller and a thousand times as flexible. And of all this, the key to this format taking over the world is the fact that we'll be able to listen to stuff before we buy it.

How many albums have you bought on the basis of a review, or on one track heard on the wireless, only to find that you've got around a quid's worth of good music and a tenner of naffness you'll never listen to again? No more. Over the years I've bought a couple of hundred CDs - of which I listen to maybe 10% more than twice a year. Investing in MP3 gear (if you've got a PC, the player is free software) can only save me loads of dosh. And I'll get to hear more good music. And I'll have an excuse to buy a hi-fi player the size of a matchbox. And if I make music, I'll be able to publish my noises worldwide from my own website without putting a sou into the pockets of EMI.

The CD is dead. It just hasn't stopped spinning yet.

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