Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Written by Rupert Goodwins, Contributor

Come back to a delightful sight -- a 20-page internal memo from Microsoft adorning the Web. It's all about what the company thinks of open source software; the sort of thing where people write code, then give it away with a licence for others to do with it what they will -- provided only that they then give away the results. Or sell them, if they wish, but there has to be a give-away option.

To Microsoft, this is anathema. Unfortunately, it also works rather well, with Linux, Apache and many other delights doing things that Microsoft does only better. This is causing no small commotion in the hallowed halls of Bill. The memo seems the genuine article, and details such options as taking over various standards and making them much more complex, or identifying key open source developers and hiring them. Of course, this memo is a delightful vindication of the power of open source and Microsoft's much-derided reflexes: it may also herald the beginning of open source thinking catching hold everywhere.

Watch this space. The revolution may be about to go live.


Ionica gurgles away. This wireless telephone system has little left but a small gaggle of consumers and an out-of-date technology: so why, by all accounts, is Alan Sugar sniffing around the still-warm corpse?

The most valuable part of the company may well be the licence to operate a full telephone system. Re-engineered with more cost-effective, higher capacity radio links, Ionica still has the capability to be an exciting part of the UK telephone scene. And Alan Sugar must realise that once the smoke clears from the forest fire of change crackling away in telecommunications, there'll be more people communicating for longer than ever before -- and there will be some golden markets. The man is rich and bored, and the UK telco market is badly in need of some aggressive, no-nonsense cut-to-the-chase marketing. Alan's yer man...

Of course, it's not the first time Sugar's taken an interest in a Telco.


YES! This shout rends the air in the IT Week offices as I joyously throw the phone down. What has made me so happy? Why, those lovely people at BT, of course, of whom I will not hear a bad word said. They've only gone and given me a date for my xDSL connection! Friday the, um, 13th... oh, well.

I begin to sketch out my installation for the testing thereof. Let's see -- router, couple of servers, a decent gaming machine -- after all, have to test Wireplay for PC Gaming World -- and a firewall. Ah.

One of the downsides to being permanently connected to the Internet is that nasty people can find your computer and surreptitiously beat it up when you're not around. What the world needs, and badly, is a single-client Windows 95/98 firewall. No such beast exists. Without it, there will be a significant backlash against xDSL and cable modems -- wait for the first scare story in the media -- and that'll slow the market down. And, I think, it should be open source -- like Linux.

Why open source? Because that's by far the best way to ensure reliability, safety, quick release and sensible updates. It could be got going fairly quickly and released to the world -- any protection is better than none -- and it may well turn out to be the first widespread open-source Windows program.

Any volunteers? It needs to happen, and soon...


Off to a small winebar in Soho, where I sit beneath a heart-warming picture of the widow Clicquot and discuss a wide variety of matters with Bill Pechey, his astounding wife Doreen (oops, Eur Ing Doreen Pechey BSc CMath MIMA CEng MIEE, and that's not the half of it) and mutual friend Sue Starie. Bill and Sue both used to work for Hayes -- Sue as PR, and Bill as Technical Guru. He's the sort of person who chairs ITU (International Telecommunications Union) committees on standards -- if you've got a modem, there's something of Bill beneath the covers. He's not the sort of person Hayes should've made redundant last Friday. But they did, and he's currently "investigating options" as they say. Tonight's option appears to be Cabernet Sauvignon, and it's v. yummy.

The wine flows and conversation becomes more animated. Of course, I can't reveal more than a tenth of what was said -- like what Bill and Doreen were doing in the bushes around Chequers with two-way radios one night during the Gulf War, or what Dennis Hayes is spending his money on these days -- but there appears to be no shortage of people keen to get Bill on board. If you need a technical director of the very highest calibre for your company, you could do worse than drop him a note on bpechey@cix.co.uk. But do it quickly.

It'd be especially nice if he got a job that keeps him on the various ITU committees to which he contributes. That way, the flow of stories about what actually happens in various Geneva restaurants can continue unabated -- and did you know that if you chair an ITU committee you get diplomatic status? That means you can get into the Special Section of the duty-free shops, "where vodka costs three pounds a litre", sighed Bill, "the same as the orange juice to put it in". Why the governments of the world consider it essential that their diplomats can get parsimoniously steaming, I do not know.

Explains a lot about international affairs, mind.


"Look at this!" The note from PC Magazine points me at a news story in the US Electronic Times (Here -- but come back afterwards!). This talks about Silk Road, a new optical networking technology that does... it's not exactly clear. 93 gigabits a second sounds astonishingly healthy, though, especially since it uses a single laser on a single frequency. Every other multi-gigabit optical network uses loads of both. Unfortunately, the technical explanation seems obscure to the point of whiffiness. I'm sure more clarity will be forthcoming.

Hearteningly, the article manages to call the technology Silk Toad halfway through. I shall from henceforth think of smooth yet warty amphibians whenever the discussion turns to optical fibres.


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