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Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Written by Rupert Goodwins, Contributor

Congratulations to The Reverend Christopher WH Goodwins, MA, Retd, who phoned me to reveal he's passed his final exam, flown his final solo and is now a fully qualified pilot for single engined aircraft under VFR! The local newspaper and TV station pick up on this, and readers in the South-West region may well have spotted Flying Vicar stories dotted around the place.

Readers in the Cambridgeshire area will get their chance shortly, because the Rev and Mrs G are moving next week to Isleham, a place closer to Ely than to heaven, with four pubs and one enormous carrot farm. Yours truly has been roped in to help with the moving process, and will be spending this weekend busily wiring up computers, video recorders and ‘the sort of thing Rupert does'. This will include the new Pentium II 266 which is one of my parents' retirement presents to themselves: I'm planning to take up a USB videoconferencing system and introduce them to that - if you're online at the weekend, watch out...


Dixons has launched a free ISP service. Well, well, well. First reports are that it works pretty well - and that contrary to what Dixons says, you can access it perfectly well without having to go and install the CD-ROM that the stores are giving out. You need to know some names and numbers, but if you're the sort of person who likes doing that sort of thing, you'll know where to find them.

Which is just as well - for as soon as the CD-ROMs start to go out, the reports of problems start to come in. All utterly predictable, as they use Internet Explorer and install it whatever happens to be on the disk already - and if you've already got IE4 and a load of stuff hanging off it, the chances of an amusing misunderstanding are high. Technical support from Dixons costs a pound a minute (a-ha!), and proves to be none too technical nor supportive. One report online, where a combination of NT4 and ISDN proved too much for the Dixons installation script, says that it took the support team about ten minutes to find out that that they didn't know how to fix it. A tenner, eh? You can buy a month online with free technical support from Demon for that...


Up to Manchester to record a TV show with Lionel Blair and Faith Brown. And my mother. And Martyn Lewis. Of that, little need be said - except that Mr Blair has got a new video out. It's about line dancing, and it's called - wait for it - Lionel Dancing. My, the world of entertainment is a festival of delights.

My best delight came on the train back down from Manchester (which was surprisingly lovely in the autumn sun). In the seat behind me, a bloke sat and talked non-stop on his cellphone: normally a painful burden to cope with for two and a half hours, but in this case it proved worthwhile. It transpired he worked for a company in the education field, and furthermore he was rather proud of his reputation as a laddish boor. I sat entranced as he worked through three cans of Stella and his phonebook, making deals, arranging dinners with heads of London council education departments ("I'll be late, but I'll do the little-boy-lost doe-eyes routine. She'll fall for it. Always does. Haha.") and firing off memos. "Copy that one to Sandra, even though she thinks I'm a slug. Haha."

Great Bores Of Today had nothing on this chap. I took notes, of course...


We've all known for ages that computers are like frosty fields, keeping traces of our movements long after we've gone. It takes the Internet to make this very obvious, though. In the last couple of weeks I've had two long-lost chums make contact because they've stumbled across my name by accident - Ian Peel, with whom I was at school, and Christine Coard, who helped continue my education afterwards and subsequently became godmother to my son. It's delightful when that happens (the email from old friends, not the continuing education. Oh, I dunno though...) but one just knows that where one's friends can go, one's enemies can follow. Not that I have any, of course, excepting my various vices and failings.

Although I'm not sure what to make of one Mike Genovese, who came to my attention through a similar route. Once upon a time in a job far, far away, I was trying to teach myself C programming. Being an assembler man, dedicated to communing with the computer in its native tongue, I soon evolved a profound dislike for the new language. So much so that I composed a nerdish poem deprecating what I thought were some of its unlovely features, which some time later found its way into a magazine and, later yet, out onto Fidonet. And there it would've languished and died...

But no - it lives again. It's on the Web, and a pal reported its discovery to me. He also remarked that it appeared to have been written by this Genovese chappy. I checked http://happy.net.ut.ee/texts/c_poem.txt, and yes, there was my C Man's Lament together with an unfamiliar authorship. I mailed the site's owner who added my name to the bottom, and now we wait and see whether MG picks up on this.

If you're out there, Mike, drop me a line. You can find my name on the Internet, y'know...


HALO, HALO, HALO... what's all this then? It's the High Altitude Long Operation aeroplane, which rolled out this week. Designed to stay aloft for eight hours at more than 50,000 feet, it circles a major city and pretends to be a communications satellite. At the end of eight hours, another one pops up and the first one slinks home. Advantages over communications satellites include: a whole lot cheaper, a whole lot more powerful, can have the latest gear fitted, looks cool. Disadvantages: reliability is unknown and some poor soul's gotta sit there piloting it round and round. Wonder if my father knows?

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