Rupert Goodwins' Weekend Diary

Get into the office to find enough spam in my mailbox to feed an army of Australians. Not good.

Get into the office to find enough spam in my mailbox to feed an army of Australians. Not good. I don't want to look at hot Russian sex kittens, thanks very much, nor invest just $26 a week with a guaranteed return of $5000... $7000... AS MUCH AS $10,000 A MONTH.

However, it's not just the ever-increasing volume that's worrying. Hidden in the cascade of quasi-legal scams are adverts from companies I've heard of, some of whom get their stuff reviewed by us. We've had some readers say that we shouldn't do those reviews -- but is that fair? How about encouraging the development of anti-spammers; e-mail programs that send "User unknown" messages back, or the use of uman-readable-only replyto fields? Something has to be done, but something that's not as disreputable or disruptive as the sin itself. Any ideas out there?

Tuesday

A friend is entertaining two Swedish women, who're over on their holidays to see the sights and observe that strangest of animals, the Londoner at play. The hour is late, the chattering loud, the whisky flowing - quite a treat, as the Swedish Systembolaget booze monopoly keeps prices of spirits stratospherically high over there. One of the Swedes with an admirably joyful curiosity expresses an interest in this Internet she's heard so much about. Particularly any online lesbian sites.

It is curiously satisfying to be given licence to explore the dark side ("it was for journalistic research, y'honour"), especially in such agreeable company, and my friend was delighted to kick the modem into life, pull up his collar and slip into the red light sector of cyberspace. What they found, though, was a skein of links of such duplicity and cupidity that it makes Arful Daley seem like the National

Consumer Council. Everywhere they looked, pages promised much but provided nothing. At one point, the pornographers' habits of starting up new browser windows with menus in (more difficult to navigate out of, y'see) had produced 30 copies of Netscape on screen at once.

Fortunately, my friend is a professional. He and they managed to eventually filter out the cons and nastiness and honour was satisfied, so to speak. But it looks as if the guardians of the nation's morals can sleep easy in their beds (if that's what they want to do there); on the current state of the online pornographic industry, nothing but frustration awaits the frustrated.

Wednesday

Wednesday is Palm Pilot day! First, we find that IBM hasn't so much licensed the Pilot technology from 3Com as bought a big box of the things, sandpapered off the words 'US Robotics Palm Pilot" and written "IBM Workpad" on in blue crayon. Oh, and it's replaced the green power button with one of dysentric brown. You've got to laugh, really. Such badge engineering is a good idea really - it'll get the product, which is one of the few that's honestly good enough to merit it, into a whole new part of the corporate world, and the thing will become the de facto standard for hand-held organisers. Bet Casio, HP, Sharp et al aren't laughing, and could you ever see IBM badging the Psion Sienna?

Then come reports that executives in the US, keen to prove ownership and prowess, have taken to giving whiteboard presentations in Graffiti. That's the written shorthand Pilot understands. This also provokes laughing, but in experiments I and a pal discover that our mutually incomprehensible scrawl is much improved if we do the same when writing on paper. This could spread.

Finally, our American and ultra-professional editor-in-chief, Bob Kane, is unexpectedly convulsed with laughter. He's unable to speak, so we prise his Pilot from his hand and see if we can find out what's going on. Seems the man was downloading new software from the Web, and got an offline document reader -- this grabs text from the Web and shoves it into the Pilot for later consumption. Bob had innocently chosen the top downloaded document from a very respectable Web site, only to discover it was a salacious tale involving spanking and panties. Why this rendered him speechless with mirth for a good five minutes is another one of those cultural differences we may never fully understand.

Thursday

We're moving! Spend most of the day packing stuff into crates. Tempted to just slip into one myself and close the lid, just to escape the chaos, but friendly voices tempt me even more strongly with tales of beer after it's all over. Words cannot express the heroism of the IT department who when faced with moving telephones, 150-odd computers, megabit data links and rooms full of temperamental Notes servers do not just collapse with fear but get on with the job. Can't wait for good wireless networking, though. It'll make such a difference. Get diary done day early, because online stuff may be a little temperamental.

In the evening, descend on Emporium, a club just south of Oxford Circus. It's Firefly's 6th birthday bash, and they always put on a good one. Hear with sympathy story from pal who's being parcelled off to the Continent for three days in the exclusive company of the scene's Most Obnoxious Journalist. MOJ himself does not appear to be in attendance, so we content ourselves with tales of past sins including incidents known as The Client's Wife, The Wastepaper Basket and The Snog.

Party goes on and on. But that's OK, the office is closed tomorrow. Working at home.

Friday

Woken from deep and troubled sleep by online bod Arif. "Errr... " he says. The sort of "Err..." that's never good news. "Err... don't suppose you could rewrite the diary" he says. "Some sort of corruption... we've lost it."

But of course. Delighted Just don't expect an entry for Friday...

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