Rupert Goodwins' diary

For reasons unclear, while everything else on their machine can happily see the little server Frontpage installs to do local webbery, FrontPage itself refuses to make contact. There then follows ten minutes of frustration as I don't have the software on my machine and she has to work through loads of menus to find out the appropriate setting to change.

For reasons unclear, while everything else on their machine can happily see the little server Frontpage installs to do local webbery, FrontPage itself refuses to make contact. There then follows ten minutes of frustration as I don't have the software on my machine and she has to work through loads of menus to find out the appropriate setting to change.

It's a nightmare. The sooner Windows starts coming with decent remote control software, the better: now we're all on the Internet, it should be seen as an absolute essential. People with computer expertise always end up supporting four or five family members or friends, and we're doing a lot of Bill's dirty work for him for nothing. Is it asking too much that they recognise this and try and make our lot just that little bit easier?

Tuesday

A phone call. Would I be an expert witness in a case where someone's suing the police? Now that sounds like fun. I'll report more on this when it's happened -- I'm no lawyer, and have absolutely no understanding of sub judice apart from the feeling that it's best to keep schtumm -- but it involves a lot of classic The Bill drama stuff.

In fact, it'd make a nice beefy Bill episode. Where did I put my guide to writing TV scripts?

Wednesday

Psion says "Watch out, everyone, we're not going to make as much money as you thought". This is because Psion Dacom's mainline business -- flogging PC Card modems to portable manufacturers such as Dell and Toshiba -- is going away. Everyone wants a modem, so the manufacturers are including them on the motherboard.

I know Dacom have some new products, and I suspect some of them are much required -- compact flash modems for handheld PCs, multifunction modems to compete with Xircom, and so on -- but I don't know what for sure and I don't know when. It'll be a while before that business comes on stream, and we're still a good two years away from Symbian turning into so much as a cash calf, if it does.

Which leaves Psion with the Series 5, a nice product but in danger of being outgunned by the sheer force of the CE push and 3Com's continued development of the Palm. (I've seen some of the new Palms, and while I can't talk about them I just thought I'd tell you so you'll be jealous. Has it worked?) This is a classic formula for a lean year ahead, and that may make Psion a tasty takeover target.

I reckon it'll be Toshiba.

Thursday

It's press day at IT Week, and we're running around like PDA-equipped gibbons as what must count as one of the more complex stories ever to lead the front page is stuffed into its box. It's fighting back, with tentacles twitching over the side, but eventually we get the lid down. The story? Wireless data gets big. Loads of announcements -- BT and Microsoft, Motorola and Cisco, Lucent and Alcatel -- and by the nature of the business they're all linked commercially, by the standards efforts or by long-entrenched rivalries. It looks as everything in place for megabit wireless data in the next two to three years, and it should become as pervasive as the current cellular phone system. Which will change the way we use computers -- excitement!

The really worrying bit, though, is the standards process. There is an American cellphone company called Qualcomm who owns some vital bits of intellectual property that the new systems will need. Normally, everyone with IP like this chips in to the standard and agrees very easy terms for its use. Qualcomm is finding it hard to do this, though, and it's hard to avoid the feeling that it's trying to make sure that the GSM scenario -- where a European standard got global domination despite American indifference -- can't happen again. This time, it's going to be an American-dominated standard or they'll take their ball away.

Which is as harmful as you like. Every time standards get kebabbed for political reasons, the whole market suffers. Remember V.90 and the 56k modem fiasco? By the time 3Com/USR had reached agreement with the rest of the world, the warehouses were full of stock that just wasn't selling, the Internet was full of ISPs who just weren't going to upgrade until the standard had been sorted out, and everyone hurt.

If this posturing ends up delaying proper wireless connectivity, I'm going to sulk for a month.

Friday

What new nonsense is this? Compaq has taken out a double-page spread in the Wall Street Journal Europe to advertise itself under the rubric Compaq? Who Knew? I have never seen such a collection of over-puffed factoids, misleading-but-just-about-defensible claims and empty phraseology. Take this paragraph for example: "Who out-integrates the top integrators? Including IBM? This may surprise you. It's Compaq. In fact, Compaq beat out the biggest names in IT integration in InformationWeek's annual poll of IT professionals, finishing second by the slimmest of margins". Right. Hey, I came top of my Latin class at school, finishing 23rd by the slimmest of margins. There's more: "Did you know that all of the top 30 telcos depend on Compaq for everything...". No, as it happens, I didn't. And I still don't. "Where does the enterprise store its gigabytes, terabytes and googlebytes?" Its what? In the googlebyte box, of course...

It goes on and on. And while you can say, as the advert does, that Compaq invented Alta Vista, the real truth is that Compaq bought AltaVista. Which is different.

I suppose that this is all down to AltaVista floating, and Compaq wanting to be seen as more than just a PC manufacturer. But it certainly sounds and smells like primo quality poo-poo: this is the sort of advertising that does more harm than good.