Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Monday

Down in Plymouth, dropping Number One Son off with his grandparents for the last blast of the summer holidays. Also attend to my father (the West Country Vicar)'s modem, which has received a direct lightning strike up the interface and is no longer working. I wonder what the theological significance of this is as regards the Internet but the Reverend is more concerned with getting his e-mail back. A pragmatic cleric, Goodwins Senior.

Tuesday

Sony hints that it's about to announce a partnership with Philips and Hitachi about breaking away from the DVD-RAM standards group. NEC has previously said much the same thing, so that'll be three competing standards for read/write high-capacity optical disks. Idiots. I ask my informant to name me one case where fragmenting a new market in this way helped anyone, and he changes the subject.

Ask US Robotics. Ask Hayes. Ask anyone involved with the X2/K56Flex farrago whether sales have met expectations, or whether everyone's waiting for the ITU standard next year. Since the whole thing started, I haven't heard one technical argument why one of these is better than the other - it's purely a marketing thing. And the marketeers have done the market no good at all... and these will be the people responsible for ADSL's eventual appearance.

I don't have a good feeling about this.

Wednesday

Fill in for Dave Green, friend and proprietor of a scurrilous online newsletter (which isn't getting another free plug this week), on GLR, London's local BBC radio station. This involves about ten minutes blathering on the Breakfast Show about techno-wheezes, videogames, latest inventions, all that sort of thing. Jolly good fun, and concentrate on MPEG 1 level 3 (yawn...) which by compressing CD quality music down by 90 per cent has resulted in huge archives of ripped-off music on the Internet (aha! Much more interesting!).

Also mention, inter alia, that Microsoft is having problems. Windows 98 won't have an upgrade path from Windows 3.1, I opined, which is a bit of a shame given that 70 per cent of corporates haven't bothered with 95. Later back at the office, I get a pained call from Microsoft's PR company. "Rupert," says the worried voice, "that wasn't exactly accurate. We will have that upgrade path..."

"You mean you buy Windows 95 first?" I ask, trying to make a joke.

"No," says the long-suffering PR, "although the revenue would be nice. It's just that the upgrade path won't be available at launch. Very shortly afterwards, it will"

Very shortly, it transpires, is "around two months". Those are Microsoft months, of course. So, I am happy to say that I was wrong, and Microsoft is expecting such a rush of corporate upgrade requests for Windows 98 that it will be making the path available some time after launch. My advice remains: don't wait underwater.

Thursday

MCI and BT are determined to merge. I know nobody who thinks this is anything other than an enormous disaster from start to finish. Would prefer BT to worry about innovation, investment in new technology, cutting-edge services and forward-looking infrastructure (which it has done in the past) than trying to bolt itself to a troubled, mediocre American telco in uncertain condition. One rarely gets fit by strapping oneself to a corpse.

Friday

Tapping rapidly away about videoconferencing over the Internet. Having problems - only video capture card I have is PCI, and all my slots are full. Shall I ditch my network card, hard disk interface or video adaptor? Hm.Tricky.

Meanwhile, talk to a pal about this technology. "Nobody's using it..." I say, but trail off as a distant, haunted look crosses his careworn face. "Well, that's not strictly true" he says, and proceeds to tell me about late-night online orgies, impromptu strip shows and general malarky all carried by CU-SeeMe, VDOphone and Iphone. Recall that he bought a camera not two weeks ago, and hurriedly change the subject. Think once more about lightning strikes and telephone interfaces.

Questions. Are online videoconference orgies another example of push technology, and should they be restricted to people with fat pipes?