Over in the US, ZD-TV has started broadcasting. The world's first 24-hour TV channel all about computers. Golly. Will anyone watch? They'd better... but as part of the great experiment, 10,000 Webcams have been distributed to the masses over there so they can all visibly interact from their front rooms.
I like this idea. Perhaps we could run magazines that way. All we'd have to do is make sure that the readers had a computer, and a word processor, and an email account... hey, hold on, you do, don't you?
So next week's diary will be a Readers' Special. If you have a particularly fun - or bad - day, write to me. Fame (but no fortune) can be yours...
Bloke on the blower from the Beeb: "Can you pop in and do something for Radio 5 Live on Microsoft Versus The American Government?." Er, yes. (It finally pans out on Friday morning at 07:45am. Last week, they asked me to do something at 05:45am, but I was so soundly asleep that I missed the phone calls, the taxi at the door and the Very Anxious Vibes transmitted by megawatt amplifier from Broadcasting House. But don't tell anyone. I think I'm forgiven).
How do you compress the whole story of Microsoft - for this anti-trust lark is merely the bursting-out of many, many years of consistent business policy - into two minutes? Is Microsoft guilty of restrictive practices? Crikey. Try answering that on nationwide radio without thinking of lawyers. The fact is, as far as I can tell, that Microsoft is harming the industry - but mostly just by being so big and so focused. At developers' conferences now, the independent software houses queue up to ask MS what it isn't going to develop - because nobody can afford to risk competing with the robocops from Redmond. Is that harmful? Of course it is - there's no other way to look at it. But the only way MS could avoid that would be to stop developing stuff at all... which seems a tad harsh.
The various tales of heavy-handed behaviour may or may not be true, and if they are then MS should stop them at once. No question. It won't help much, though.
Ya want the three hot topics for the end of this year? PDA, DSL, VPN. Don't get them wrong, otherwise you end up with VPL and PD NADS. And there's no way my nads are ending up in the public domain, VPL or not.
Nevertheless: reports reach me that a large multinational bank discovered with considerable horror that lots of its PDA-toting staff had hooked up a modem at their desktops and were dialling in from outside. This connected their palmtop, wherever it may have been, directly to the PC and thus the corporate LAN - bypassing firewalls, access logs, or anything else that might protect the family jewels from intruders. The solution? Encrypting virtual private networks, that's what. VPNs. Security so strong that you can wrap up your innermost secrets and broadcast them across the networks. If the PDA has the decoding software, it doesn't matter how it gets the information.
And DSL? Well, if all goes well with the Universal ADSL Working Group (see Monday's news), it'll be the next modem standard. And that means you can take your PDA, plug it into the wall in a hotel or a friend's house or an airport lounge, and have a megabit link back to base. As far as I can tell, everything for this is getting very close indeed - and try telling me you don't want it.
Technology is wonderful, but it can only do so much. For example, there's nothing much a scheduler can help with -- no matter how wonderful -- if you entered the time of your 11:30 am meeting as 4:30pm. And so it is a rather dishevelled Rupert who says (embarrassingly audibly) "Who?" when informed by reception that a certain Dirk Gates and entourage is in reception for him. Dirk Gates, extremely dapper and disturbingly youthful CEO of Xircom, that's who: fortunately for my nerves, he proves to be delightfully enthusiastic and -- at heart -- the true geek.
We rattle through the presentation and dive into business. Xircom's main problem is that its speciality -- PC Cards -- has evolved pretty much as far as it's going to, and the days when it was difficult to put an Ethernet adaptor into a laptop have gone. Nobody's surprised when a card with GSM adaptor, 100Mbps network, 56k modem and ISDN appears. It turns out that what's been hurting Xircom the most is the X-Jack -- a little spring-loaded socket that pops out of the side of 3Com's modem cards. People hate carrying modem leads around, and the X-Jack means you can use an ordinary telephone cable.
Xircom's solution? Make the end of the PC Card twice as thick, so the card takes up two slots, and put proper sockets in. I sigh inwardly for the days of red-hot electronic technical innovation, and try to get excited about the fact that Xircom has patented 10mm thick end connectors, thus cleverly nobbling 3Com which only has rights to 5mm.... or something.
So's you don't forget here's that hot tip again: PDAs. And VPNs. And DSL.
IT Week is finished! At around two o'clock, the final page disappears down the line to the printers and that's it. We've done Volume 1, Number 1 of our weekly. Now it gets printed on Saturday, sent out on Sunday (and don't ask how we persuaded the Post Office to do that) and will be on people's desks for Monday morning. Including ours - I've seen some black and white proof pages, but the first time any of us on the paper see the final product will be exactly the same time you do.
(although, even as I type, pictures are being relayed from our Cornish printing presses via ISDN back to the office. Our production director, the redoubtable - and I mean that most sincerely - Joanne Hurst - is shown pointing at the cover as it appears from the machines. It's very exciting!)
And now, if you'll excuse me, there are a few crates of cold beer waiting for us and the rest of Ziff-Davis UK.