Dream that Bill Gates is planning to send over 800 satellites into space and set up Internet Of The Air, thus bypassing all the telephone companies. Dream that he claims it'll handle up to 1Mbit/sec and cost about the same as cellphones. Wake up wondering about beetles: find out subsequently that it's all true. Watch out for Teledesic - the name of the system. Sobering thought Number 1: it'll cost around 12 billion dollars to build, launch and set up all those satellites. Sobering thought Number 2: that's only half Bill Gates' net worth.
One of Santa's reindeers stepped on my US Robotics Pilot, and the display is broken. Since I've put my entire life on it, this is a matter of more than usual concern - the question is, will the product's much vaunted ability to instantly copy itself onto and off a PC save me from digital amnesia? It'd better, especially since I've been one of the people doing the vaunting.
A new Pilot is acquired, popped in the transfer cradle and the update button hesitantly pushed. The software asks whether I want to make this new Pilot "Rupert Goodwins"? Yes, please.
Blip. Done. My life is restored in less time than it takes to put a map in a Filofax. Rather annoyingly, I have to reinstall the essential selection of games by hand and that takes. ooooh ... another minute. It's always nice to find out that something you wrote was true.
Ask US Robotics when the next version is coming out. They go very quiet, the sort of quiet people go when a product is close enough to get interesting but launch dates aren't quite finalised. Watch this space.
When oh when will 56K modems be here? The desk is straining under the weight of '56K ready' announcements, with a sprinkling of boxes that claim to have the capability already. Who knows. They may. Nobody's actually announced a 56K service yet.
Phone Demon. Demon says: "Werl, mate, once the standard's ratified, or gets close to it, we'll do it". Seems the polyphony of proprietary technologies is making the adoption process too painful to contemplate.
I said this would happen, I did. I told the modem people. Did they listen to Uncle Rupert? Nah. Serves 'em right.
Microsoft is launching Office 97. I could rattle on about the software, but everyone else is doing that, so let's talk about the launch party instead. MS turned up at the PC Magazine offices with a bus - oh dear - and proceeded to abduct some 20 journalists. Our transportation ended at The House Of Magic, a peculiar gothic pile in the middle of Kennington, one of those bits of south London that The Bill spend all their time scurrying around. It's spooky. We watch, entranced, as Microsofties get various limbs hacked off by a stage magician; things appear and disappear and inexplicable acts are performed with mechanical rabbits. Of the product, there is no mention and the only PowerPoint presentation is when The Great Mysto pokes a marketing manager with his wand. Excellent.
Late in the evening, I trap another marketing manager - there are millions of them - by the bar and am delighted when he asks me what our perception of Microsoft as a company actually is. "But but but." he splutters, clearly upset, "you can't mean people really call it the Evil Empire?". Oh yes they do, and I explained why. I leave him sadly perplexed - another soul saved? Perhaps not. But it made me feel better.
The morning makes me feel worse. Must've been something in the ice cubes last night. Get into work and settle down to a hack at some copy concerning Web servers. Hum. The day is enlivened by an in-depth discussion of the word 'swive' (go and look it up) and an even livelier discussion about what can be done with a dead CD. This soon turns into an article idea for Computer Life and. well, you'll have to wait. Suffice it to say that some of them are probably illegal, some a threat to shipping and some may even make the evening news.
To bring me down to earth, I do a telephone interview with a man about routers. Not just any routers, goodness me no, but standalone encrypting end-to-end firewall routers for VPNs (Virtual Private Networks, where you run your company's data over a public carrier but make sure it's all heavily secret before you send it. These will be big.). That's OK, but there is an unwritten rule (well, I'm writing it now) that the more acronym-ridden and technically dense a subject is, the more exotic the accent will be of the person telling you the story. In Comdex, it was Internet phone protocols and the Taiwanese that taxed me most: this time, it was hardware key generation and negotiation algorithms, a very bad cellphone and an Israeli who had a beard you could hear. Oh well.
Bit of self publicity: The Net, BBC 2, 11:15pm, Monday 20th. yours truly is followed around by the BBC at Las Vegas. See what a journo actually does when he's a long, long way from home.
Fave gadgets: Baygen clockwork radio, and Sony SRF-M48RDS Walkman with Radio Data System.
Best toys I've had all year.