Fly back from Oslo, where I and A.N. Other have been whiling away a rather chilly yet interesting weekend. Norway is an odd place - friendly, tidy, smug, rather like Switzerland in many ways - but it does a fabulous sunset. The high point was Vigeland Park, where hundreds of statues depicting various aspects of the Norwegian psyche are clustered. The low point... well, I won't go into that but if you plan on visiting the place, make sure you're wearing clean underwear.
Moving on swiftly - the Vikings are batty about the Net. Our hotel, very much more functional than lavish, had an Internet terminal in the lounge, and access packages were being pushed heavily on the TV. At one point, I get talking to a nice bloke in a bar only to find out he does PC support for a chocolate firm - even here, alas, there is no escape.
Oh, and everything you may have heard about Norway being expensive is right. Very right. I never thought I'd be sitting in a bar in Heathrow and giggling about beer costing only two quid, but Oslo does that to you...
Back in the office. No reply from the government concerning the strange business of the online tax form designed to work only with Internet Explorer 4, but I'm on their case. Was that project put out to tender? Bet it wasn't. Is anyone involved with the project concerned to make it comply with European law? Bet there isn't.
Meanwhile, Microsoft has demonstrated its arrogance by telling the US Justice Department that it can't stop bundling Internet Explorer with the latest revision of Windows because the two are too tightly integrated. Which is nonsense; if the operating system is really that dependent on such a component then the fundamental design is very badly flawed. But of course, the operating system isn't that dependent. As an experiment, I tried deleting IE 3 from a machine with the very latest OSR2 release of Windows 95. The only noticeable effect was that the free disk space increased by five megabytes. Other than that, everything worked as well as it ever has.
Microsoft is being misleading - no, more than that. The company is lying - and I challenge it to prove otherwise. Hopefully, the Justice Department will take a similar stance.
Finish an article on Intel's IA-64 next-generation processor architecture. It should work a lot faster than the Pentium, but a lot depends on the compiler technology that'll be used with it. Any software that uses the processor will have to contain information about how it is to be executed - which instructions can be run at the same time as other instructions, the order blocks of code are to be dealt with, that sort of thing. To write software that does this, you need some deep information about how the processor works - and who's going to have this? Only Intel's partners, I suppose, and where does that leave other companies? If Intel is sensible, it will make the information as widely available as soon as possible: I bet it'll jealously guard it, though, and thus stifle the development of the IA-64 market. The Pentium will be a long time dying.
The afternoon of the PC Magazine Christmas Party. We've booked a place called Bad Bob's, in Covent Garden: it proves appositely named and we are most definitely not impressed. Not recommended. A group of us end up in Gordon's Wine Bar, which is much better. I seem to remember something about Camden, but it's not very clear...
A small rumble of contentment, even schadenfreude, crosses my hungover brain like a greased mince pie down a snowy roof. The cause? 3Com's 87 per cent drop in profits. This, the company says, is due to not selling enough modems, among other things. And why is this? Because it spent all year holding back the 56K standard so that its proprietary X2 would win. Of course, Rockwell and chums did much the same to make its proprietary K56flex win, too. Result: nobody won. It's especially galling that all concerned kept on about how much they supported standards...
Perhaps next time, chaps, you could just concentrate on giving consumers what they want? You'll sell more, we won't have to judge a beauty contest when all we want is a working modem, and the market will be much healthier.
What To Buy With Aunt Maud's Record Token: Marquee Moon, by Television. Late 70's New York art punk at its finest, now available on mid-price CD. And if you liked Beck's Odelay (and who doesn't?) then get the Beastie Boys' Check Your Head. Remarkably good stuff.