Rupert Goodwins' Diary

This week: auction hearse, RS232 interface lead, a book at court time, a slightly longer holiday than planned and Reclaim The Net!

Monday 14/6/1999

In the immortal words of the Bay City Rollers, "bye bye eBay, eBay bye..." It's one thing to have an Internet company that loses money now, tomorrow and forever. That's OK. It's also quite alright to have a company selling something nobody understands to people nobody's quite sure exist -- both these business models appear to be quite satisfactory to investors keen to get in on the ground floor of the e-commerce revolution. But poor old eBay, which is running a remarkably popular and clearly useful online auction service -- isn't that just such a good idea? -- gets shafted in the markets because a computer upgrade goes wrong.

It's clearly bad when your company depends entirely on computers, and they stop working. It would cause huge problems for anyone. But unless its an unrecoverable situation, it doesn't make your company a bad investment. Yet people sold e-Bay shares by the shedload, showing a jittery nervousness and tendency to panic that'll do the whole sector enormous harm if it carries on. What is it about e-commerce and sanity, that they seem never fated to meet?

Tuesday 15/6/1999

It's new Psion day! I don't go to the launch, but one of the new Series 5mx models turns up on my desk anyway. I can remember right back to the original Psion Organiser, with its one line LCD display, plastic pocket and gunmetal grey surround -- I was working in my first full-time journalism job at the time, and it seemed a thing of wonder. Came with a database of restaurants in London, I seem to remember.

So it's nice to see the latest model, even if it's not much of an advance on the Series 5. Non-peeling case, faster processor, Java... er.... um... well, it's got a silver top. The keyboard's still a wonder, mind.

I spend a few minutes putting some mapping software onto the beast, and try to hook up my GPS. But, of course, both the Psion and the GPS have custom RS232 connectors and despite much fussing around with adaptors, cables and swearwords I end up nowhere. Bluetooth cannot come too soon...

Wednesday 16/6/1999

E-commerce makes more of a nod to sanity today as David Trimble's legal action against Amazon.co.uk -- to stop them selling a book he claims is defamatory -- merely makes the millions of would-be purchasers point their browsers at amazon.com. Where, my goodness, the darn thing's cheaper. And presumably, even if Moister Trimble's men get Amazon.com to withdraw the book they'll have to go after barnesandnoble.com, bol.com, booksonline.com... that'll keep them busy.

It's a lot easier than in the Spycatcher days, when you actually had to get on board a plane and return with a suspicious lump under your jumper, but a lot less fun. Now, who's going to sort out www.dutyfree.com when the shutters go down at the end of June?

Thursday 17/6/1999

IT Manager sacked for booking holiday online! Shock! Horror! Of course, the real question isn't "how much working time is being lost to the UK through web browsing" -- the only one anyone seems able to ask -- but "if she was the IT manager, how on earth did she get caught?" As any fule no, one of the perks of being an IT manager is that you get to see all the logs, set all the traps, sniff around all the dark sides of the Net and generally act the high priest. Something more to that story, I'll be bound.

Friday 18/6/1999

High excitement around Ziff Towers, perched as it is on the edge of the City and the Reclaim The Streets protest afternoon. Policemen everywhere blocking off streets: at one point, a group of protesters showed their displeasure with the global capitalism system by abseiling down Tower Bridge. Curiously, a team of police abseilers was already on hand and followed suit in seconds, capturing the dangling crusties and re-establishing law and order.

Later, a small team of Ziffies on a lunchtime information gathering exercise (in the Bridgehouse pub) saw nine police motorbikes go screaming north over the bridge with lights a-flashing.. Ten minutes later, the Ziffies discovered the same convoy of leatherclad bobbies parked up under the bridge, next to an ice-cream van, scoffing 99s with evident pleasure. Well, it was a sunny day.

In general, there seemed to be five coppers for every protester. Why so many? "They organised the whole thing over the Internet", said one policeman. "so we had no idea how many there'd be." What's also interesting is the way ad-hoc news networks are being set up via email: everyone has friends somewhere in the City, and reports circulate from desktop to desktop as people spot interesting things happening ("A banker's just been arrested -- a crusty lobbed an egg at him, and he got stuck in..."). It's a better service than you get from the radio, certainly, and has great promise for the future..

As does the weather. Time to track down that reputed rave going on near Liverpool Street. Bye!


Delta Air Lines just made an embarrassing announcement (you may be livid)

Delta Air Lines just made an embarrassing announcement (you may be livid)

On July 12, we'll see the universe like never before

On July 12, we'll see the universe like never before

US weather, climate forecasting is about to get way better

US weather, climate forecasting is about to get way better