Now it can be told: I'm leaving PC Magazine. Packing my bags, shoving my modem into a red polka-dot tablecloth and tying it to a stick... and going all of 20 metres over the other side of the building to IT Week. Where I'll cease being Technical Editor (Online) and become Technical Editor (With No Brackets Afterwards Whatsoever).
I've been on Mag for more than six years, and it's been fun. I won't miss the modem reviews, but I will miss the people. And there's nothing like a weekly deadline or three to make the heart beat a little faster... add this to that the fact that our first issue will be out on May 18 and every week thereafter, and icicles of panic soon set in.
Which wear off immediately afterwards. This is going to be great fun: news writing has a thrill to it like no other, and the upside to short deadlines is that you don't stay doing the same thing for too long.
Watch this space for further developments...
Deirdre C, my Irish friend and all-round top woman, returns from Florida. And New Orleans, where she has apparently been partying her bits off during the Mardi Gras celebration. By way of a memento, she's brought me a huge trunk of masks, feather boas, voodoo equipage and miscellaneous glittery things - and I've taken it into the office.
I must report that when confronted with an inoperable copy of Internet Explorer 4.0, it doesn't do the software any good if one dresses up in peacock feathers, sequins, blue glitter wig, a large hooded mask, a larger purple feather boa and waves a voodoo doll in front of the hapless PC. But it does make one feel a great deal better - and causes no little concern among one's workmates.
Those awfully nice Pace people turn up, clutching press packs containing stories about new modems. To be expected - but there's other stuff in there too. Expect the unexpected, as they say, with a range of new products coming out over the next few months that I certainly couldn't have predicted. They have a lot to say for themselves about the UK modem market, and complain with some feeling that other companies are shipping 'upgradable 56K modems' bundled with their PC but with no way to upgrade them. Indeed, the companies concerned - Pace reports - sometimes badge the modems with their own name and then fail to recognise them in technical support. Some conversations are reported where the technical support at such a company first tell the caller that the V.90 upgrade will make their modem go faster, and that the caller 'should call the manufacturer' of the modem for details. "Who's the manufacturer?" asked the caller. "Er, well, it's on a bit of paper in the box", said technical support, shortly before refusing to say anything else. All this at 50p a minute premium phone rates, too.
Of course, it could be that the Pace people were exaggerating for effect, but I don't think they are. They wouldn't tell me the name of the company involved... so if you've had a similar experience with a cut-price bundling deal, do e-mail me. I'd quite like to have that conversation myself...
My pal the Java developer calls. "You know that Sun versus Microsoft court case?" he whispers, "well, rumour has it that it's been settled out of court and the finishing touches on the joint statement are just being sorted out in time for the Java One conference." He goes on to opine that it's a bit like Clinton versus Saddam, where it's quite clear that one side will win but with so much collateral damage that everyone would be better off just not bothering. The trick, he said, was to give Microsoft the ability to come out of it with face saved. With many new programming and debugging tools coming onto the market and the Java embedded systems business looking particularly healthy, it seems as if the language is going to survive the various problems it has and will genuinely prosper. And about time.
Mobile phones: gizmo or godsend? Two intrepid explorers from the office - Manek 'Vampire' Dubash and Ed 'Yeti' Henning are even now tending towards the latter point of view... they were invited, you see, to a big industry bash halfway up a mountain in Switzerland. Ed and Manek decided to spend some free time skiing, so caught a train further up and stopped off at a small town, there to hire some skis. Alas, the shop was shut... so they made the best of it and thought they'd walk back down again.
In retrospect, the fact that they set off without proper clothing, a map or any idea of the weather could be seen to be a little unfortunate. They probably realised this themselves as a huge snowstorm closed in, they wandered off the path up to their waists in snow and found themselves in a very tricky position indeed. Disoriented, lost and beginning to get dangerously cold, Ed finally gave up and called the hotel. Or, rather, Manek called PC Magazine to get the dialling code for Switzerland, because his phone still thought it was in England. Then he called the hotel, who got out a snowplough, which came and saved them.
So - for all you who think that the life of a technology journalist is beer, skittles and exciting foreign trips: think again. We risk our very lives to bring you the stories that matter!