Rupert Goodwins' IDF Diary

Thursday 9/3/2006Last day of IDF, and things are picking up. I learn that the latest EFI version — UEFI 2.

Thursday 9/3/2006

Last day of IDF, and things are picking up. I learn that the latest EFI version — UEFI 2.0, the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface, which is replacing the threadbare BIOS — has grown more networking capabilities, better 64-bit support, superior flash upgrading skills and is generally much better at supporting operating systems. So why has Microsoft dropped EFI support from the first version of Vista? Ah, there are mysteries beyond even the Beard of Pat.

I learn that silicon photonics is cooking nicely, and that we should expect an infrared photodetector announcement in the next quarter or two.

Yet lots of problems remain to be fixed: you can make silicon do lots of clever optical things and the same silicon will also do lots of clever electronic things, but you can't just mix them. The optical components are much, much taller than the electronic ones — a bit like a six story block of flats towering over a Citroen 2CV. And turning silicon into electronics means starting off with a very hot process and going through a series of increasingly cooler moves, adding just the right compounds — each increasingly sensitive to heat — at the right time. The same is true of optical silicon — except that the sequence of the right compounds at the right time is different. It's a bit like inventing a production line that can build a tower block and the car inside the basement garage at the same time, including baking the bricks and smelting the metal, without either process disturbing the other.

I learn… that IDF is over. Phew.

Later that evening, I and a couple of other UK hacks disappear into the city night to see a very rare event indeed. Thomas Dolby — of She Blinded Me With Science and many other, much finer yet less well known 80s pop tunes — is kicking off his first tour for many years, and he's starting in the intimate (OK, tiny and crowded) settings of the Mighty club, under the freeway, miles from the hotel. As he started his career with an album called The Golden Age Of Wireless, it seems appropriate to move there from the world of WiMax, Wi-Fi, 802.11n and UWB. The ticket costs me $10 and the set is only seven songs long, but everyone in the place has a whale of time. Especially Mr Dolby, who tweaks his World War Two vintage electronics hooked up to state of the art Mac magic with aplomb. "I feel like Austin Powers — I've gone to sleep for twenty years and woken up with all these cool toys!".

And Friday, and home.

Oh, that way to double your space in economy on Virgin? Only works in 747s, and only if you can check in online the day before. If you can — do so, and when the computer says you're in, change your seat to either 61A or 61K. These are the end seats on the row where the fuselage starts to curve in towards the tail, and there's not quite enough room for three seats next to the wall. So you get nearly a seatsworth of space between you and the wall, plus two seatbacks to yourself for stashing stuff away for the trip. With a bit of swiveling, there's tons of legroom and you can expand widthwise with ease. The seats in rows 62 and 63 are pretty good too, but 61? That's the ticket.

Don't say we never tell you anything useful.

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