Back at work. No granite, sheep or kites. Boo. Learn from a correspondent that the Internet online videoconferencing orgies (see last week's diary) have taken a hold at our centres of learning. So much so, says my informant, that at a certain northern university (which for the sake of argument we'll call Lancaster) the software is now called CU-SeeMe-SeeEverything.
In the spirit of scientific, dispassionate exploration I decide to plumb the depths and find the truth - just for you, distant reader. In two hours of sweaty, degrading networking I find two bald people with glasses (one called Sven, one not), five empty chairs, two dark rooms (where orgies may well have been going on) and a gaggle of schoolchildren looking for the NASA Select TV feed.
Return to Teletubbies page, and pour large gin. It's not easy being a journalist.
"Your copy of Netscape Communicator is out of date!" says my copy of Netscape Communicator. "Do you want to automatically upgrade?"
This never works, I think, as I fatalistically click on the Yes button. There then follows an 8Mb download, followed by a window saying "Click on Continue when the upgrade is finished". I misread this as "when the download is finished", click on Continue and thus abort the process.
Try again. This time I leave everything well alone, until a Java error pops up complaining about some incomprehensible missing class. Not impressed... but that's nothing compared to how unimpressed I am to find the software not upgraded, my disk full of useless download and my bookmark file gone.
Only one thing answers: gin.
The venerable nabob of bitstreams, Grand Vizier of the V.standards, Master of Matters Modemical and occasional morris dancer, Bill Pechey of Hayes, arrives for a long natter about the state of the 56K modem art. Very interesting - will the ITU manage to approve the standard in time for next year? How fast do these things go anyway? How can we test them? This last matter turns out to be far more complex and challenging than we expect, and we are reduced to alternately giggling hysterically and swearing loudly at each other. It's good to have technical relationships with industry figures based on sober, mutual respect.
One thing that Bill mentions gives us special cause to think. "We briefly thought about whether we should make the modems report a full 56kbps connection every time, regardless of what speed it actually runs at," he said. "Because everyone's connecting to ISPs and nobody knows what speed the data is arriving over the Internet, nobody would ever be able to tell when it was the modem that ran slower.". Fortunately, Hayes is too responsible a company to play such tricks. As for the others... well, when we've sorted out the testing (mu-law codecs, line impairment sets, gibber gibber gibber), we'll let you know.
Take a lunchtime jaunt to our new offices. We're moving at the end of September, just down the road to offices opposite the Tower of London, as I've mentioned before.
There are some great views from the new place. St Katherine's Yacht Haven - a beautiful lake filled with boats - is outside the Online Editorial area. The Tower Of London fills the windows by the PC Magazine Ad Sales department. David Craver, our careworn yet surprisingly youthful MD, has both Tower Bridge and the Tower itself displayed around his corner office.
We - PC Magazine Editorial - get the Tower Thistle Hotel, a fabulously ugly concrete monstrosity with mirrored glass windows set like acne in the rough walls. The Usability Labs are even more fortunate - here, the hotel windows are so close to the office that they can almost be touched.
Sulk momentarily, then brighten up. I think we should do a set of webcams from the new site, relayed onto ZDNet UK. The BridgeCam, showing the state of London's most famous landmark. The TowerCam, relaying the comings and goings of the Royals to an eager world. And, best of all, an infra-red HotelRoomBedCam. That should get me admission to the secret world of videoh-oh-oh-conferencing and get the stats on the site up nicely.