Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Sunday, 4am

A grand night out in town has a bucket of cold water thrown over it by the news from Paris. Watch the announcer on BBC try and fail to come to terms with what he's saying. The Internet goes into spasm; can't log onto AOL without getting unknown Americans offering condolences, alt.conspiracy.princess-diana is there in microseconds, and forget about But it's fascinating reading the newspaper sites around the world as they update their front pages.

Just as well. Radio appears to have given up for the duration, with Radios 2 through 5 carrying the same rolling news. Subsequently hear that Broadcasting House had a major power failure on Sunday, and was having considerable trouble running all five radio networks anyway.

The whole story was summed up, starkly, by the file name of CNN's lead Web story. It started out at 1am as diana.wreck and switched at 5am to diana.dead. This is not going to be a normal week.


The 56k modem scene gets weirder. Now an inventor -- Craig Townshend -- has appeared, claiming to have patents on the basic ideas. Indeed, 3Com/USR has bought a licence from him, but how this affects the ITU V.pcm standard is not clear. Everyone says something different - last time PC Magazine found this happening was when we did ISDN terminal adaptors. It finally became apparent then that nobody actually knew what was going on. Have increasing suspicion that this is the case now.

Meanwhile, finally flash-upgrade my US Robotics Courier to X2. Connection speed to favourite services promptly falls...


Hear from a pal at the Burning Man festival in the US. You'll hear more and more about this... but what the reports rarely say is that the place runs to a great extent on hallucinogenic drugs. Which is worrying, given the fondness of the attendees for guns, high-powered cars and high-powered lasers. Worst you get at Glastonbury is a burned mouth from a thermonuclear falafel.

Get particularly worried about the chemist who brings a UV laser to 'make people glow' from miles away. Yeah, right. I've always found tanned retinas so sexy...


I sit opposite one. I've known loads. I've even wondered about becoming one. But I've never really known exactly what it is that editors do all day (which is OK - they normally feel the same way about me). The bits of the job that I do understand seem thankless. Take recruitment, for example: magazine people tend to have an unorthodox range of skills and it's quite hard to find just the one you want for a particular niche.

One computer magazine editor pal of mine confirms a story I'd heard previously. The publication in question needed a deputy art editor - page design, pictures, that sort of thing - and found a likely bod from the East End. He did a creditable job at interview, got hired and set to work on the mag. So far, so good. The team then went out with a PR company for an evening's jolly: our hero's first such event. The free booze was too much; he got more and more garrulous and eventually had to be gently led from the premises, with his boss apologising profusely to the PRs for misbehaviour.

This would be bad enough, if not exactly unknown. Our chum then decides to go back to the office at midnight: the security guards are leery of letting him in, but eventually capitulate. Shortly afterwards, the alarms go off - he's down in the basement, rootling around. Out you go, matey.

Four o'clock in the morning, and he's back. Security guard in no mood for repeat performance, and refuses entry. Our pal gets physical: cops are called, and it's in the slammer to cool off. He's still too bladdered in the morning to be charged (a drunk and disorderly rap awaits), but eventually the office calls and say "Cool off. Come in on Monday at 10, we'll sort it out then."

He wanders in at 11 on the Monday, as if nothing has happened. Final straw, really: farewell, dep art ed. Later hear, through my East End pals, that he's come in for a fair amount of ribbing from his chums for such total stupidity, and that he hasn't even got enough money to buy a copy of the one issue of the magazine that he contributed to.

And you thought that computer magazines were havens of silicon-studded anorakhood. Lord, no.


Rumours grow that Psion's results are not going to be fab. "Strong pound hurt us", says Psion. "Can't get the Series5, and nobody's buying the Series 3c," says a retail source. "Everyone looked at the Win CE machines and wanted to get a Psion, but they can't make them", says Guy Kewney when I ask him.

Later, I go on Radio 5 Live and pontificate about this.

An angry user phones up. This guy is fuming! "Why did you give them such an easy ride?" He lets fly with a long stream of instances of bugs in the software. The spreadsheet freezes. You can't print individual pages from the word processor. PsiWin, the PC replication software, goes wrong in various interesting ways. It's not the bugs that particularly rile him, though, it's Psion's responses to the complaints. In the first week, says my correspondent, technical support didn't even have a database - they had to write reports on Post-It notes. And they won't say whether the bugs have been fixed, or when they might be - all they'll say is that there'll be an upgrade (in six to eight months time) which will have the fixes. And will cost £50. And which can't be installed by the users without invalidating the guarantee.

Interesting. I should be getting one on review next week: it'll be fun to talk to them on these matters.


Fix modem problem. CNN now called diana.burial.

Get flu. Retire hurt for duration.