Guy Kewney's Weekend Diary

MondayIt was a holiday. I suppose you want details? Forget it.


Motorola drop the other shoe, today. The tension has been rather extended; a year ago at the Networks 95 exhibition, they showed some cellphones with modems attached. Some of them worked on analogue phones. Clever, but not reliable. Some of them worked on digital GSM phones. Not all that clever, surely?

But a year later, they still hadn't shipped the GSM ones. And when they did, the silly things didn't understand GSM international dialling, and the big plus -- that they would work on the ordinary phone system too -- turned out to be a let-down, because they were only V.32bis (14,400 bits per second) while rivals like Psion Dacom had V.34 (twice as fast).

So this is the V.34 announcement. Does it fix the International dialling bug? "We'll get back to you," they say sheepishly. They also show us a remote control system, ReachOut. The old version was amazingly complex; this isn't; it also is the first remote control system to turn your PC into an FTP site. I'm not altogether sure our network manager is going to be happy about this...


Microsoft wants me to sign a "secrecy" clause. Apparently, the trip all my colleagues went on to Seattle a month ago, to do an Office 97 Reviewers' Workshop, is something nobody knows about. I'm not allowed to talk about Office 97.

Odd. You'd have thought a reviewers' workshop had something to do with the fact that Microsoft is sending out direct mail to the big corporate buyers, inviting them to the launch of Office 97 in mid-September. If it is, how come it's a secret? And if not, just how green am I supposed to be?

So I can't tell you about the fact that Office 97 once again offers a complete set of new incompatibilities, can I... not even after having my ear bent in the pub after work by the operator from Hell who is planning to upgrade the merchant bank next door, about how he's got to sweep up the mess yet again.


A reader drops me a kind note, pointing out that a modem which does 28 kilobits plus compression can indeed get 64 Kilobits worth of ASCII down the phone line. "But your piece suggests that this would allow multiple compressed 2,400 bps voice lines," he says kindly. "And I just wondered if you realised that you can't compress data twice?" He's right, damn him.

Dell is going to announce a new server, says my answering machine. In order to get across the fact that it's a server, would I like to come to Mossiman's, and learn how they train their waiting staff?

Time, I think, to ring the office and take the day off.


IBM wants to tell me about their new USB machines. "But we had one around here almost six months ago!," I say. "This is better," they say. "The old one had two USB ports, this one has only one."

I don't know; they have this all-digital system, and it's got the space for a sound card on the board. And yet if I talk into the microphone, there's no way of getting the sound into my phone; and if I get an Internet Phone connection, I can't cut and paste it. What does multimedia actually mean, you guys? A PC standing next to a CD player? Or something which cuts and pastes? "We've decided not to put the sound card on the board, because of these issues," they explain. How about fixing the issues, then?

Apparently, they're going to launch machines with dual Pentium Pro chips. At least, they'll have a spare socket for the second Pro. All we need now is some software that runs on dual chips. "Oh, there will be, there will be." I've heard this one before, chaps and chapesses. Notice how I'm not holding my breath?