Guy Kewney's Weekend Diary

Monday:Cix announces a new managing director. A phone call from the new incumbent; he is now running an online service with 16,000 subscribers, all paying £8.
Written by Guy Kewney, Contributor


Cix announces a new managing director. A phone call from the new incumbent; he is now running an online service with 16,000 subscribers, all paying £8.00 or so a month, and his job is to turn revenue of £120,000 or so per month into a profit.

My job is to pretend I'm surprised. Roland Perry is an old friend, but I wonder if he knows how many other people have phoned in the last week to say they've been offered this job, but turned it down? In at least two cases, I think they made the right decision -- they couldn't have hacked it. CIX is known to most computer industry cognoscenti, in the UK, but the rank and file know only CompuServe, and America Online.


A programmer hacks into America Online, and calls me to say that they have a rude word guideline file. The rude words are called "vulgarity."

It turns out that you cannot call an AOL "room" after the graphics interchange format, GIF. GIF is a dodgy "vulgar" word "because of the possibility that illegal graphical images may be exchanged." This, from the service which calls the town of Scunthorpe "Sconthorne" to avoid obscenity, sounds quite believable.

Tuesday finds me in London, not Seattle. I was supposed to be with Microsoft, studying Office 97, but "because of the Olympics, Guy, we've had to drop your invite, because we can't get seats on the flight." My travel agent finds seats without any difficulty, but in the end, I decide not to embarrass Microsoft by showing up with an invite, but no air ticket. The real problem is time: the trouble with being a writer is that you have to write. Monday was a day like that: there were five interesting things I wanted to do, and instead I had to sit at the keyboard. I'd quite like a pound for every press conference I've had to miss because of meeting the deadline for the previous one. Today is worse.


The main offering for the day is a big Microsoft "presentation" on web technology. It's all day. I ask a colleague, Chris Lewis, to let me know how it goes; he shows up at my desk around lunch time. "When the Microsoft presenter says 'it's going pretty slowly, isn't it?' you know it's really going slowly," he groans. He opted out. Glad I went to the announcement of Ameol 2; equally short of news, but at least it was only an hour out of the morning and a chance to meet the elusive CIX technical team. Still not entirely sure why we need version 2 of Ameol; from what I see, I'll stick with version 1.2.

Which leaves me without time to go and see the inventor of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee, get his "gong" from the British Computer Society. A pity; it's the least Tim deserves for inventing HTTP and HTML.


Macromedia arrives in the office to show its Web authoring packages.

Call me simple-minded, if you must, but this surely makes about the 51st Web authoring package to be demonstrated this year; and absolutely not one, yet, has shown any understanding of what makes Web pages hard to manage.

The trouble with Basic, especially in the old days, was that you could say GOTO 1456 without any idea of whether 1456 existed, and whether 1460 said GOTO somewhere else. And the same is true of the Web; after you've created 50 pages, you have absolutely no idea what is going to happen if you change one of them. The Macromedia team change the subject and start talking about Shockwave animations. Very nice, but what about "unstructured GOTO" problems? "Yes, it's a problem," they sigh. So fix it, already!


NT Workstation is to be crippled. I get a really angry press release from O'Reilly. Not the jobbing building from Fawlty Towers, no; this is Tim O'Reilly himself, the head of Web book publisher O'Reilly & Associates.

The problem is the old one of whether NT is a server, or a workstation. In the original release, there wasn't any distinction made; the workstation acted as a server. This remained true with version 3.51. Unfortunately, Microsoft changed the small print; with the earlier version, you got server functionality enough for "any number of Windows 3.11 clients" in the same workgroup. With 3.51, however, you had to pay for the clients. And guess what: nobody did. The statistics went to hell...

So now, Microsoft is readying version 4.0, and it's going to be the face that launches a thousand Web sites. Except, if you buy the workstation version, it will now limit the number of unique IP addresses which can contact a remote Web server to ten at most. Ten minutes later, you can connect more. Big deal? Well yes, says O'Reilly furiously; people now have to spend an extra $999 to get the Server version.

Microsoft may find this hard to understand. I think O'Reilly is dead right, though; if they want to establish NT as the de facto Web Server standard, pinching pennies like this is dumb, dumb, dumb. I predict a swift opinion turnaround.

Editorial standards