Macworld, Boston; the heat, the crowds, the over-booked hotels. No way. I'm staying in London -- I made that mistake last year. I remember trying to get a rental car when mine (borrowed from a friend in Connecticut) broke its clutch cable outside the airport... but that's another tale... And of course, since I decided not to go, all hell breaks loose. Steve Jobs announces an alliance with Bill Gates! Saint Peter hires Lucifer as chief bouncer! Tony Blair calls David Mellor into the cabinet...
Well, who knows what might happen?
But on investigation, it seems that the hullabaloo is greater than the reality. Talk of a "takeover" by Microsoft... turns out to be "bought five per cent of the shares."
Well! There's a surprise, where Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are concerned. Steve, when I first met him, had a wispy beard, and believed whatever he said. That's not unusual> What he had over other self-belief freaks was the ability to make other people believe what he said -- even when they knew he was imagining it all.
I used to call him "Saruman." I gather his staff called him "Old Reality Distortion Field." The man who actually designed the Mac, Jeff Raskin, was so overcome by this distortion field that he wasn't even mentioned at the launch. (He was later given the millionth Mac as a way of making up for this).
So much for fantasy. Now reality: in an attempt to get a really fast Quake machine, I am trying to get my hands on a Videologic display card. It was announced back in June, as the Power VR machine, and it sounds really, really nice. And it's shipping! A quick phone call to Gremlin: yes, they have a copy of a fantastic new game, which is one of thirteen to use the new 3D speedup chip.
And for good measure, let's get a Voodoo Rush display card. One from Hercules, since they volunteered. "Oh, no trouble, Guy!" they say. Great!
The day ends with a complete failure to get a single "frag" in the office Quake deathmatch. Turns out the local network is under some kind of stress. At least, that's my excuse.
The Apple story gets weirder. If you don't believe me, go back and search this site for "Amelio" and you'll find my diary dated 11th January. Check out the "Tuesday" from that. Then come back here.
See? Clear, unambiguous description of an Apple board, so close to Microsoft that their shoulders have almost disappeared, as the vulgar saying has it. And today, we have virtually all the announcements that Brad Chase made back in January 6th's party -- Internet Explorer for the Mac. Office for the Mac. ActiveX for the Mac. And today, they are promising all those things again.
When is it going to dawn on the world's software providers that a Microsoft promise can't be sold, shrink-wrapped?
The InterNIC is a group which believes that domains (things like .com and .org and .net) are private property, and that the InterNIC is the owner of the same. They will let you rent a domain. They are, says one domain owner angrily: "the clowns of the earth."
You can sympathise. He has no longer got his domain, because he hasn't paid for it. "But of course, they haven't invoiced us, or anything. No, that's too easy. You wait till you haven't been paid, and then you give notice of termination. So the domain owner says: "We'll pay: send us a fax copy of the invoice, and we'll give you credit card details for instant payment!"
That's too easy too. InterNIC responds by deleting the domain, then send an apology, then offer to sell them a new one with the same name.
All e-mail, of course, vanishes in a puff of smoke.
I gather the experience is common, too.
So it's off home, after yet another trashing at the hands of my colleagues. Mind you, I did notice that I don't seem to have either Videologic or Hercules cards.
FreeDotNet tells me it is offering a free Internet service. They'll get their revenue, they say, from advertising. Fantastic!
Well, free... It does cost £30 for a year's subscription. Or £50 if you want Internet Newsgroups... hey? Free Internet without newsgroups? Hang on, what are we getting, beyond e-mail and access to the WWW?
Odd you should ask. "Increasingly individuals are supplementing e-mail and Internet facilities at work with pure Internet access at home for personal use and family entertainment. This is becoming even more prevalent with the advent of WebTV and set-top box Internet devices." I quote from their press release. So, are they not giving e-mail?
Well, sort of. "FreeDotNet took the strategic decision to separate its Internet access and e-mail products, enabling users to select and pay for only the services they required, making the service even more commercially attractive. "
Yes, yes: and it's free?
"The FreeDotNet E-mail service is charged at 99p per week." That's around £50 a year, right? Plus £50 for ... Unsupported News Server? So, Demon charges £10 a month, £120 a year, flat fee, and that includes email, news servers, and Web support, including access to QuakeWorld. And FreeDotNet charges £100, for a "free" net service? Without full Usenet?
Trounced at Quake. They say it's understandable, given the awful Gateway keyboard I have. Can't argue with that. Why does Gateway insist on producing these awful, programmable keyboards. And on top of that, a proper 3DFX chip, or a PowerVR chip, would be nice. Still no sign. I phone them, both. "Oh, I have to get one out of head office's budget," moans the guy from Imago. "We've sent you something by recorded delivery!" says Videologic. Yes, a colour transparency picture. I want the card. "Oh, a card. Hmmm..."
Microsoft wants a piece about the Jobs - Gates deal, "dealing with the Devil," they say. I write them 1,000 words, pointing out that the deal isn't going to do much for Apple beyond prop up its share price. And no, I don't think it will save Microsoft from anti-trust action, but then to be honest, I doubt that Microsoft is in any danger of anti-trust action. Bill Gates understands the law. And no, it won't prevent Java from taking off. Come on, Java depends for its life on Apple? "Apple is Microsoft's biggest rival!" they say. I don't think so...
"This is rather soft. We were told you were a very anti-Microsoft writer." Yes, when Microsoft does something stupid, I tend to say so. What's stupid about buying shares which go up 33 per cent overnight?
A strange bit of rock music history arrives: Queen! An interactive DVD, digital "versatile" disc, from Abbey Road. And now, the search for a machine on which to view it: I don't have DVD attached. So I call Gateway: and, yes, they are (secretly) working on a 266MHz machine which has both DVD and the all-important MPEG decoder chip!
Can you believe it? All the DVD drives we've had in, so far, have no MPEG. Yes, I suppose you will believe it. What is the point?
The ritual end-of-day Quake death match ends with my multiple demise, as usual. Still no 3DFX card, still no Videologic card. Sometimes, I wonder if it's really fair to disturb the repose of these "marketing" people.
I don't suppose I can easily describe Friday. The plan was to go down to Cowes for some sailing. It is, after all Cowes Week, and I'm a keen sailor. And Lexmark has hired a boat. And at this point, Rupert, bless his cotton socks, discovers that I haven't written up my "100 Favourite Web Sites" copy. Apparently, he sent me e-mail.
Friends, when you install Lotus Notes, just be very grateful that you start with version 4.X Here at Ziff-Davis, we had one of the oldest Notes networks in the world, all based on 3.X servers. Upgrading them is a nightmare, and in the process, the IT folks have had to simply delete, disable, or disregard a lot of the old databases. I don't have Rupert's note, but I do have to meet the deadline. So [FX: weeps] it's back to the office. Where the BBC World Service asks me, urgently, to step into Bush House and explain the Apple thing.
Look, it's VERY SIMPLE. The fact is that Apple now has only three per cent of the PC market; a year ago it had 10 per cent. This deal will, perhaps, stop it disappearing down the tubes in 12 months; but to pretend that Microsoft's five per cent shareholding is in any way going to "kill off" an Apple threat to Windows, is like pretending that Ben Holioake, alone, can win the Ashes for England. To imagine that Java was going to crush Microsoft, and that by buying five per cent of Apple, Bill Gates has warded off this threat, is like suggesting that John Crawley may one day make a big score in his first innings.
And talking of cricket, WHY can't the BBC put Test Match Special onto the Web? I can listen to Web RealAudio versions of 100 radio stations around the world. Why not the BBC? Because they're incompetent.
[I feel better now.]