Over the past few months it has been amusing to watch Intel shift orientation from the clunky Slot 1 packaged processor to Socket 370. This column predicted the demise of Slot 1 from its inception, since it was invented only because Intel couldn't find enough die space to put an L2 cache directly on the chip. The propaganda mill for Intel insisted that Slot 1 was invented because of the speed limitation inherent in any socket design. Now the company says Slot 1's speed is limited and the socket is better. All I know for sure is that is has to be a lot cheaper for Intel to make a chip that plops into a socket than a huge module.
The online publication The Register (www.theregister.co.uk), out of England, follows a lot of the shenanigans of both Intel and Microsoft. Somewhere along the way, The Register got hold of an internal memo from Intel that described in great detail its PR policies and methodologies. Primarily written for the European Intel PR professionals, the memo includes a number of amusing generalities about certain cultures' attitudes toward Intel and technology that would be considered politically incorrect.
Here are a few of the comments in the memo that tickled me: "Avoid using Swedish examples in other Scandinavian countries. . . . Acknowledge that Scandinavian countries are on the edge of technology. . . . Try to find a human or environmental angle to the story." And here's an amusing quote: "Spaniards are not particularly interested in technology." And regarding the Dutch: "There's a contramove [sic] against anything successful." The kicker's for Italy: "Italians are often late. . . . Always pick up the bill." It goes on and on.
The Register has had a number of interesting stories over the past few months, including one that triggered a thought. Apparently, the Linux-sponsored movement to force Microsoft to give users their money back for unused preinstalled copies of Windows is growing in France. Microsoft really hates this idea. There may be a new twist as to why.
At the Systems Builders Summit in Boca Raton this past summer, the small system vendors were constantly carping about the price they pay for Windows compared with the supposedly lower prices paid by the likes of Compaq and Dell. Since Microsoft says everyone pays the same, is it possible that Microsoft doesn't want to offer refunds because it would have to refund more than the actual cost of the product on certain platforms? That would be humiliating. Just a thought.
Check This Out Dept.: The Web has become a wonderful conduit for all sorts of odd hobby sites, none more interesting than the Fourmilab site (www.fourmilab.ch) in Switzerland. This is where Autodesk founder John Walker is holed up. It's his personal site, and it contains a lot of useful Autodesk strategies, including corporate presentations. Also on the site are favorite and obscure utilities for Unix, Windows, and palm computers as well as various Walker rants and observations. This site could keep you busy for days. Walker even has a diet plan and some original science fiction posted on the site.
Whither Smart Media Dept.: The battle between the two flash memory formats for digital cameras seems to be coming to a head or getting more complicated, depending on how you look at it. Sony added its proprietary memory stick to the fray, which I believe will eventually become the Betamax to Compact Flash's VHS. The odd man out may be the little Smart Media card. Agfa is abandoning Smart Media in favor of Compact Flash, and the newest offering from Olympus (the real force behind Smart Media) has two slots, one for Smart Media and the other for Compact Flash. If Olympus eventually bails out, then Smart Media will be dead.
The problem with Smart Media has been capacity; it hasn't been able to keep up. To shoot megapixel photos you need a lot of memory. In the Compact Flash format 64MB cards are common, but finding even a 16MB Smart Media card is difficult. Lexar Media, the leading third-party memory maker for digital cameras, makes a high-speed Compact Flash module that accelerates loading. More interesting is that fact that Lexar now gives away a USB reader with the new USB-enabled cards. This little Lexmark module plugs into a USB port and turns the Compact Flash card into a virtual disk drive. Très cool.
As for Agfa's change to Compact Flash, that's apparently not all it's going to do. The company looks as if it will incorporate a diminutive Iomega Clik! Drive mechanism into a future camera. This 40MB device has recently been worked into a new, smaller PC Card package into which you can insert the media. Very nice indeed. Iomega is also moving into the world of rewritable CD-ROM burners.
Genuinely Interesting Software Dept.: I was more than a little amused when Broderbund released the entire archive of Mad magazine on seven CD-ROMs. Check out www.totallymad.com. I've always admired this publication, especially during the Kurtzman/Elder regime. I do have one suggestion for Broderbund. Go back to the publisher and license some of the other offbeat titles that nobody has ever heard of. During Mad's earliest years there was a spin-off called Panic. It was almost identical to Mad, and only a few issues were ever released. Just a thought.