Tuesday

Tuesday 10/09/2002There's no point in broadband to your bedroom if your laptop is lacking. Mine most definitely has lost the will to live.

Tuesday 10/09/2002
There's no point in broadband to your bedroom if your laptop is lacking. Mine most definitely has lost the will to live. It's getting packets from the hotel Ethernet, but refusing to get an IP address. Intensive diagnostics show that the XP registry thinks that there are eight phantom network adaptors connected, and despite hours of exorcism trying to remove all traces of any network information from the computer, the registry dutifully restores these whenever I reboot the computer. In desperation, I reinstall XP (thus losing all my music and other important parts of my San Jose Survival Kit), and for a short while all is fine. I radio back to base that things are working, and I won't have to queue for the twenty PCs in the press room (among around 400 journalists, this can take some time). Then I turn the laptop on again, to see a Blue Screen Of Death. Apparently, some unknown agent of chaos has written lots of nonsense on the computer's hard disk -- including, I discover when I restart -- the boot sector. Nothing works, not even a little bit. I say a very rude word several times, loudly. Then I commandeer a press room computer by sheer force of will, and start shotgunning emails of woe across the world. Several people rise magnificently to the challenge, but the true hero of the hour is Randy Jones from HP's Mobile Computing Division in Cupertino, a few miles up the road. He turns up at the show clutching screwdriver, hard disk, spare CDs and a spare laptop and conducts on-site open-heart surgery on my moribund Omnibook. It's not a simple operation, but it is -- in the end -- successful, and I even earn the undying envy of the rest of the press room for having such splendid support. And I know Randy is a perfectly good American name, so no sniggering at the back there. It was hard later, though, as one of the demonstrators at a keynote rejoiced in the name Randy Plumber. I'm sure I've seen some of his movies... Later that same evening, I go to a "Meet The Engineers" party, where I bump into Jeffrey Schiffer. He's got a CV that I doubt will be bettered: designed part of the radio system used on the Lunar Excursion Module from whence Neil Armstrong did his One Small Step speech, has built receivers to search for extra-terrestrials, wideband wireless networks and Chinese satellite systems. He was also a big part of Intel's Bluetooth team, and chairs the Bluetooth Aviation working group. Is Bluetooth safe to use in flight? Oh yes, he says, and the European aviation authorities agree. How dangerous is it to use cellphones on planes? Lufthansa has said that on average, one cellphone is turned on throughout every flight they make. We chat on amiably enough, but I get the feeling he's rather uncomfortable. When I get back to the hotel room, I find why -- a large brown stain is spread across the front of my shirt. Test samples determine that it's not the soy sauce from the sushi at the Meet The Engineers bash, but chocolate ice cream from the press room several hours previously. So I've been wandering around the show looking like an extra from the peasant mud-eating scenes in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. That's show business.