Rupert Goodwins' Week

Monday

Question: how do you make an office of 120 people say "F***!" at the same time? Answer: have a power cut. Quite fun being about the only person with an uninterruptable power supply when that happens. Not so fun when the cause of the power cut is that the building's air conditioning has blown up on the hottest day of the year.

Never mind. Later that day, I'm crowing about my UPS to a co-worker. "It's great", I said. "Didn't lose a word. Look, if I press this switch it puts it into test mode and you can hear it bleep!". I was wrong -- if I'd pressed the other switch, it'dve gone into test mode. As it was, I turned it -- and my computer, modem, monitor and printer -- off. Bye bye Word document.

Must make sure hubris is in the spell checker.

Tuesday

ARGH! I hate computers. Especially mine. Have spent all morning trying to get something written, but my paint package will no longer recognise half the graphics files. Try to tweak the file associations (I suspect that a printer I played with last week has taken over all the links, badly), but nothing works. "You need TweakUI", says helpful colleague. That's on www.microsoft.com - which gives a permanent SERVER TOO BUSY error. Now, what was Bill saying about NT being scaleable? Eventually get through, download TweakUI, press the 'Fix problems' button. Only effect is to re-enable Windows Tip For The Day box that appears when I restart my computer.

First thing it says is "Need help? Select the Help item on the right of the menu bar".

I have in the past asked for the heads of Microsoft software designers to be impaled on sticks outside the Tower of London. I hereby renew that request, with something nasty involving entrails and crows added on as a codicil.

Wednesday

Calm returns. Read through MPEG-4 specification; the next generation of video compression and, it turns out, a whole lot more. However, the standards bodies are clearly under the influence of Internet-inspired informality; the part of the document set that deals with MPEG-7 (information description) uses Monty Python quotes ("This parrot is bleeding demised!") and a transliteration of the violin bit from the shower scene in Psycho ("Scree scree scree scree!"). Excellent.

Saddest of all, your normally sober and mature correspondent is hit by helpless Beavis and Butthead-style giggles upon discovering that MPEG-4 analyses the human form and sends motion down narrow bandwidths as an animated model. To describe how that works, it uses Body Animation Parameters, or BAPs. One thought of a group of engineers looking at some future, highly-compressed cyberporn and saying "Look at the BAPs on that!" was enough to do it for me. Sorry.

Others in the office, observing that I was finding an MPEG standardisation document hysterically funny, called for medical help. But I'm better now.

Thursday

Why Didn't Anyone Else Think Of That: Sony has produced a digital camera that uses 3.5" floppies to store the images. Forget infra-red transfers. Forget PCMCIA. Forget - yawn - serial ports. Cheap, reliable, standard media.

Applause. Sony, you know where to send the eval unit.

Friday

The first nationwide network of public monitoring video cameras has been switched on. Terrifying. 1984's most chilling piece is that it all started to go wrong when television became two-way. I wouldn't mind so much if the monitoring and control rooms were themselves monitored, with the outputs available via Webcams on the Internet. That way we could check up on the guardians of law and order, and make sure they weren't abusing their powers at the same time as they made sure we weren't abusing ours.

I can see no reason, logistically, morally or legally, why this shouldn't work. To arms, citizens! You have nothing to lose but two hours a night staring at someone making a cup of tea!