It's Intel Developer Forum time again. Intel, always assiduous in such matters, invites a journalist or so from all those enlightened publications which cover the chip world, and once again the ZDNet UK lot falls upon me. Even Intel's getting a bit worried by this by now -- it's the third time in a row -- and tries quite hard to get someone else from the big Z to do the jaunt. But nobody seems to want to spend four days in San Jose writing about chips. So it's down to me, and my ability to cope with Monday morning... Travelling's changed since I was a kid. Once, driving to London from Plymouth was an expedition calling for preparations roughly on a par with Columbus pushing back the frontiers of knowledge. Packing started days beforehand, with every item carefully considered for inclusion through a process of judgement, appeal and counter-appeal that only stopped just short of the House of Lords. Now, it's a few shirts thrown into a bag, together with the standard collection of gadgets and a toothbrush. I spend far longer loading up the laptop with the really important things in life -- VPN access for the work network, a word processor and getting on for 12 gigs of MP3s. Thank heavens for 100-megabit ethernet: one day I really must buy an iPod. The story now assumes the shape of an exam question. Turn your papers over and begin. Question one. The flight is at eleven. Chummy lives an hour and a quarter away from Heathrow, pretty much door-to-door by the sumptuous luxury of la ligne sous-terrain Pique a Deli. Check-in is scheduled to take two hours. When should he leave? Before answering, the candidate is advised to consider the international situation (tanks outside Terminal One), the current state of London's infrastructure (congestion charging: oui! Half the tube network working properly, if at all: non!) and the habitual disorganisation of Chummy. The correct answer is, of course, 6 a.m., thus allowing a couple of hours for unforeseen delays. And, of course, the gods will dictate that there is none. There's barely time to blink before sleep-deprived Chummy is fuzzily deposited on the other side of check-in, wandering through the enormous cavern of retail that the airport seems to have become in his absence. I've never seen anything quite so insistent outside Vegas -- it is possible to find a seat without becoming lost in the glistening petrified forest of duty-free opportunites, but you have to be gifted with the innate global navigation skills of an albatross. I fail, but fortunately the array of consumer goods on offer is so hideously priced and garishly displayed that even in my weakened state I have to run away, rushing headlong in a random direction. I find myself in a dusty corridor, watched with some sympathy by a security guard. He inspects my boarding pass and tells me that I qualify for the Servisair Executive Lounge. Blimey! And it's just over there! Cor! This leads to some rumination on my part. I'd better try and be executive. So I read the Financial Times, break out the laptop and looks as if I'm really worried about the state of the markets. But try as I might, I can't find any Internet connection (which I don't really want but suspect I might sensibly use), yet am confronted at every turn by the Executive Lounge's vast array of free executive booze (which Chummy does really want, but suspects that even by his rather louche standards getting stuck in at 8 a.m. may be going it some). I compromise, have a Bloody Mary (well, it is breakfast), tell the laptop to play a random selection of music files, and give up on the search for the Internet connection. Which is a shame: I quite fancy chatting to the production desk and videostreaming the drinks cabinet back to them as they cope with the rigors of kicking the Web site into life on a Monday morning. But why no network access? It's not as if it's hard to get ADSL in West London, and five of the bottles of the better tipples would easily pay for a wireless access point. Ah well. Nothing to do but write the first entry for the Intel Diary, and perhaps consider making sure the mortal remains are well equipped to cope with the rigours of transatlantic flight with an extra-vigorous helping of Vitamin C. Now, was it orange juice or tomato juice that was most loaded with the health-giving ascorbic acid? And isn't it true that a modicum of ethan-1-ol in the mixture is very good for promoting absorption across the stomach lining? Can't be too careful with air travel these days.
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