Guy Kewney's pre-Easter diary

Monday:Limping. Ring the office: "Can't come in; can't walk."

It makes for a busy day, trying to set up Wireplay. Yet another re-install, another attempt to configure another version of Gamespy. "Are you sure you aren't putting too much work into this?" asks the Wireplay bod.

He's right, of course. The ideal system is to get a games package which a ten year old kid's mother can set up. This, I'm afraid, requires a ten year old kid. It's hardly Wireplay's fault, and frankly, I'm impressed with what they have managed.

The rest of the time I'm trying to research data storage, and find out what happened to Active Directory. Phone calls, that sort of thing. Telephone tag. I wouldn't mind, but there's a modem involved.

It goes like this: once upon a time, I had a US Robotics Courier, and it stopped working. So I rang my friends at US Robotics 3Com, and said: "Can you replace the non-working part of this?" and they said: "You don't want to do that! You want our new X2-software-upgradeable-33.6 56K modem with Sportster on it!" And they swapped the Sportster for the Courier. And being an idiot, I took the thing home (which is where I use it) and plugged it in.

So along comes Mr Windows Plug And Play, and he examines it and he says: "Humph. A New Device. What is it? It looks like a modem." I replied: "Yes, install it." He says "It's one of these, I bet! and points me at something called a pulldown list. I pick the Courier, because I'm sure USR wouldn't have two modems with a different command protocol, and bingo, it doesn't work at all.

After some irritation, I discovered that it would work, with some problems, if installed as a Standard Modem. What it wouldn't do, was answer the phone. To this day, I can't tell you why not. But my modem MUST answer the phone or I can't remote-control my machine. And Laplink, which does the remote control, requires not only the full Sportster driver set, but it also requires me NOT to use

"Standard Modem".

All my fault, of course; I should have brought the diskettes home. So next time I remember, I do just this; and install the provided drivers. All is well, and I'm happy. And then, like a complete Richard-head (thanks - ed), I do exactly the same damn thing the other end, and the office machine gets the same problem.

Here's the problem: if you run Laplink, it tries to use Standard Modem and it simply doesn't care how often you tell it "Not that one, idiot!" - it ignores the Sportster that is really there, and uses the Standard Modem which is not. So you have to remove the modem. But then when you reboot the system, it sees the modem, and re-installs it...and until you do that, Laplink won't initialise the Sportster; and when you do that, it won't use the Sportster.

So here I am at home, and there, at work, is a dialog box saying: "Windows has detected a new device: Standard Modem. Shall I install the drivers I have" and until someone goes there and says "Cancel!" I can't dial in?


Still limping. You won't believe this, but I've worked out what caused it: I trod on a scorpion.

What makes it really annoying is, I trod on that scorpion in Austin, Texas, about six years ago. I was buying new trousers, and had to take my shoes off to fit my feet down the legs. At the moment of injection, the toxin caused almost no pain... I thought I'd picked up a splinter. About a minute later, the foot was swelling, and I thought I must have got a stone or something in my shoe. And five minutes after that, I couldn't walk, and over the next week, the whole foot turned purple and yellow and green.

And now, six years later, some residual pocket of the stuff is leaking out of its little capsule.

Of course, the podiatrist doesn't believe this. "Nah, ya gotta metacorpuscular interstitial compression ganglion," he intones. Actually, I bet that isn't what he said, but he might as well have done. He squeezed it. I tried not to say "Aieeee!" too loudly. "Oh, that's not where I expected it!" he said.

Call from my Active Directory man. "You aren't going to believe this, but they've finished it!"

Now call me cynical, if you must, but he'll have to talk longer than this to persuade me. Active Directory, for those few enlightened souls who have the sense to stay off, is The Answer to Novell's NDS directory services software. It says so, right there on the Web site; go look.

Last time I looked at an NT 5.0 beta copy, there was no sign of Active Directory at all, at all. Miracles can happen, but something complex enough to rival NDS can't be "finished" before it's even been tested, can it?

Very, very odd.


This is school holidays; I'm relieved of normal Wednesday duties, and can head into town [limp, bump, limp, bump] to have breakfast with IBM. The new PC boss, Ian Boulton, is one of the nicest blokes IBM has ever employed; unfortunately, he's also one of the shyest, and when he doesn't show up for breakfast, I'm afraid my heart sinks. I don't doubt he was in Paris yesterday, but I'll bet he can get to more of these regular IBM breakfasts than he actually manages to! I bet you a breakfast, Ian...

Anyway, the day is entertaining enough; they're finally admitting to a "firesale" on unwanted 166 and 200 and 133 Pentium machines. Some, I gather, have had their prices halved. Check the pages of MicroMart: IBM can actually beat some of those offers, with full IBM warranty! Tough on the guy who bought the batch of "unwanted" machines a month ago at the higher price...

They also show us the new (still "secret" Pentium II mobile machines, starting with the Model 600). It's a ThinkPad, very nice box; too heavy for me, though. If I wanted something that weight, I'd go for the full-scale one. "The full-scale one has a really good sound system," remarks the product manager. "It has a sub-woofer in it!"

No, it doesn't. I dare say there will be one, but this isn't it. A sub-squeaker, maybe. I do want to see it when it comes...


Active Directory: what appears to be going on is this: Microsoft is panicking about NT 5.0, and despite all the promises about "Never again!" is rushing it out to beat the June 1999 deadline.

In order to do that, it must be finished. So (says my mole) all the developers have been told: "Stop work! Whatever you've done, that's what we're going to ship. We're going to beta, and we are going to correct the bugs, and THAT'S IT!"

And the Active Directory developers said: "But this isn't even working well enough to debug!" -- and as they were protesting, they were moved onto other tasks.

Gartner warned not to try installing NT 5.0 until Service Pack Two, at the earliest. Actually, it now looks to me as if they were wrong. NT 5.0 without Active Directory to screw it up, may well be launchable in Spring next year. I don't think that would be wise, but at least it avoids having to make Active Directory work...

"Why would you install NT 5.0 without Active Directory?" says one of my colleagues."

I give up. Why?

Five o'clock comes. "Where's your diary?" says the podiatrist...

Yup. I forgot Friday was a dead day. See this brown stuff? Yes? See me in it? No?

No, you won't. That's because I'm in it well over my head...