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News Schmooze: Of Microsoft and Meta Pads

Broadband hit the headlines, DivX went the way of Napster, and IBM proffered a new tech gadget

Tuesday saw the Schmoozer crashing the House of Commons where a parliamentry select committee quizzed leading lights from the world of IT. Topping the bill was BT, led by combative chairman Sir Christopher Bland -- but the event's peachiest moment came when AOL was giving evidence. Committee chairman Gerald Kaufman's eyebrows seemed to rise every higher as AOL UK chief executive Karen Thomson explained how the likes of BT must do better, until the Schmoozer began to fear that a bout of altitude sickness was imminent. All soon became clear. "I signed up for AOL once," Kaufman confessed. "It took over my whole computer and simply couldn't be removed. In the end it had to be exorcised," he sighed, pulling a 'never again' face. Amid the guffawing, Bland's casual claim that Britain's rural idylls may have a 20-year wait for broadband Internet access went almost forgotten. But not quite...
Rural areas face 20-year wait for broadband And what does it say about the UK telecoms industry, when BT is slammed as a big bad monopolist on the day that it promises significantly cheaper broadband? Rather like veteran left-winger Tony Benn, who once complained that "if I rescued a child from drowning, the Press would no doubt headline the story: 'Benn Grabs Child'," it seems that BT can displease some of the people all of the time. Then again, things are little better in America, where broadband start-ups are going bankrupt left and right, and the ones left are increasing prices and delivering worse service. The Schmoozer has a better idea: let's follow the Korean model, where 50 percent of the population is on broadband, because they all live in concrete tower blocks with pre-installed cable modems. Green belt? What's that?
BT confirms broadband price cuts
Operator tries to block BT broadband price cuts Another bastion of the everything-for-free-if-you-have-the-technology Internet seems to be going the way of Napster, with DivXNetworks cutting a deal with the Frankfurter Institute to bring its technology into legitimate applications sometime in the 22nd century. For those of you just tuning in, DivX is best known for its compression algorithm that lets you do cool things like download a Hollywood movie in 30 minutes, six months before it's released in the UK. It's not to be confused with DivxDVD, despite the eerily similar name, which was a failed project for selling self-destructing DVDs. Anyway instead of being used by cool underground hacker types it looks like DivX is steadily moving towards the likes of Frankfurter and the Muppets. Next thing you know they'll be charging for Web sites!
DivXNetworks gives piracy the boot It's nice to know, in this increasingly bottom-line-driven business, that there is still IBM Research, high-tech's equivalent of Q, popping up randomly every so often to demonstrate a variety of unexpected and often peculiar gadgets. The latest is the Meta Pad, a small black core which you're to carry about in your pocket and insert into various shells that turn it into a PDA, a laptop or a desktop PC. Meta Pad will help "explore what happens when you can start taking your data with you wherever you go," IBM says. The Schmoozer hates to think what will happen when the processor in this thing burns a hole through the bottom of your pocket and it drops through a sewer grating, taking all your data with it. MI5, however, seems not to mind about losing hundreds of heavily encrypted laptops each year, and will probably start using Meta Pad next week. Let's hope it fares better than those other design wonders, the butterfly-keyboard ThinkPad and the TransNote....
IBM test-drives transformer computer
IBM's pen-based notebook runs dry Microsoft is going to take a month to go over all its code from top to bottom, giving things a clear-out, chucking out the rubbish and getting everything ready for the big new focus on security. The Schmoozer imagines this must be something like going through all your belongings before you move house, something Microsoft hasn't done, apparently, since it was formed in 1975. Who knows what they could find in there, tangled amidst all the dust, old newspapers, crooked plumbing and Sellotaped electrical wiring? Perhaps there's an old, forgotten 1979 memo down in the depths of the Windows code somewhere: "Note to self: Create easy-to-use graphical user interface. Plays music and video. Must connect to a global computer network: possible name, Microsoft Inter-Net? Peer-to-peer networks might be a good idea. Also digital cameras, and burning music onto digital discs, like 45s only smaller. But will it sell??"
Q&A: Steve Ballmer - trust Microsoft Lindows is making a version of Linux that will run Windows applications, something one Linux enthusiast compared to a Robin Reliant riding along in the back of a flatbed truck. Someone pointed out that if you call Microsoft technical support and tell them you're running your software on Lindows they'll first ask you to repeat what you just said, and then they'll laugh themselves silly. Red Hat Linux is taking another tack in competing with Windows: don't do it. Instead, open source will take over all the servers and then we'll just need some sort of Linux Lite running on an Internet appliance and Windows won't matter anymore. Best of luck...
Lindows offers a software sampler
Red Hat: Linux will never compete with Windows The News Schmooze is ZDNet UK's irreverent take on the week's news. Send your tip-offs to: mailroomuk@zdnet.com.


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