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Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Written by Rupert Goodwins, Contributor

Hi honey, I'm home! The move to Isleham went swimmingly, even if it involved me planting nine trees, tuning three videos, programming six telephones and sitting in the back of a small car for seven hours with two very annoyed cats. I also got my father signed up for the Dixons' Freeserve internet access scheme, and was pleasurably impressed by its simplicity and speed of access. It works, too -- which probably worried BT Click Plus and Demon in equal measure.

I celebrate my return to the Smoke by leaving again, this time to go to Brighton for the Telecommunications Managers Association show. TMA is an annual event beloved of suits, where communications companies show off their wares to large people with larger corporate chequebooks. Brighton is a lovely town -- visiting it always leaves me feeling ten years younger -- but awkward for a big show. TMA's there, so industry myth has it, so that the managers can spend a dirty weekend with their secretaries 'on business', although it would be uncouth for me to report on any such naughtiness. Suffice to say that it definitely puts the Rs in PRs.

I wander around from exhibition centre to hotel to storm-lashed beach. Some good wireless stuff, lots of Home Highway, and IP, IP everywhere...

The day is rounded off by a fish, chips and champagne supper hosted by Alcatel at the end of the pier. The only bone in the fillet happens right at the end: there'll be a coach at 10:30 to get everyone back to London, the company says. Indeed there is -- but no kudos to the Alcateliers who decide to go on and have a little more fun, finally turning up at the coach at 11:15. I get back to London way past the last tube, and spend fifteen minutes in the rain at Victoria Station waiting for the world's most expensive cab. Atchoo!


Gah! Lotus!

Let me ask you a question: have you ever chosen a Lotus product for yourself since the days of (lest we forget) 123? I'll bet that most people who use Lotus software had no choice in the matter, and with today's little fiasco I'll bet that continues.

The task? Install and run eSuite, Lotus' Java-based set of productivity tools. According to the company, eSuite 'lowers the cost of software, boosts productivity and speed deployment of business critical applications'. And version 1.5 has just been released, and I have half a page to fill - which should've been filled with something else I didn't do, so I'm in thrice the hurry.

Guess what happens? Installation fails: no error messages, no help files with anything useful, just a diskful of software that starts to run and then quietly stops running without error message or reason. No matter, think I, cutting edge software and all that. I'll just get some help. Oh, nobody at Lotus HQ seems to know about it... and the Web site? Ten minutes battling through its byzantine structure gets me to a page seductively labelled "eSuite Technical Support" -- that produces Error 500:Notes Database Is Corrupted. Followed rapidly by Error 501: Notes User Not At All Surprised.

Needless to say, I don't get my review done. Some time later, Eamonn Sullivan, would-be recipient of my copy, tackles a contact at Lotus:

"What's the status with eSuite 1.5?"

"It's not quite out yet"

"But it's launched! Your Web site says so!"

"Depends what you mean by launched. It's not actually available yet, as such. But it's going to duplication"

Still, Lem Bingley reports that when it works, it's rather good. I'd be impressed too, if I saw it working...


Today's lesson: If you find an NT server apparently doing nothing but with an occasionally flickering disk drive light, don't press the reset button. Even if you've been told it's doing nothing and nobody appears to be connected to it, still don't press the reset button. Even if you've got a review to do, have been told that you can use the server and have checked all around the labs, definitely don't press the reset button.

If you heed not this advice and do press the button, you will cause to be summoned a gibbering demon fron ZDNet UK who will scream something about spending four hours installing Citrix ICA services. The demon will then be sentenced to spend all night reinstalling NT and its bits. He will then store up glowing coals to heap upon your head at a later date (to be determined).

Perhaps I should give up with this game and go and learn how to grow carrots...


Hurrah! The 1998 Ig Nobel prizes have been awarded, at a reportedly rumbunctious ceremony in Harvard University. These are a glorious tradition, being the scientific community's recognition of results that cannot, or should not, be repeated. Four genuine Nobel laureates presented the prizes in an evening that also included an opera in praise of duct tape, a contest to Win-A-Date-With-A-Nobel-Laureate (prize: Richard Roberts, Physiology or Medicine 1993), and many paper aeroplanes.

Space is too short to file a full report, but highlights included the Biology Ignobel to Peter Fong of Gettysburg College, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, for contributing to the happiness of clams by giving them Prozac; the Statistics Ignobel to Jerald Bain of Mt. Sinai Hospital in Toronto and Kerry Siminoski of the University of Alberta for their carefully measured report, "The Relationship Among Height, Penile Length, and Foot Size." (the laureates all wore gigantic shoes for this award); and the Literature Ignoble to Dr. Mara Sidoli of Washington, DC, for her report on "Farting as a Defence Against Unspeakable Dread."

Want more? Those whose thirst for knowledge remains unslaked should sup at www.improbable.com


Film Of The Week: Elizabeth. OK, so it's a little incoherent and a touch cliched, but for rollicking court drama, great acting and Eric Cantona's Amazingly Mutable Moustache it can't be beat. What's more, it's a film both boys and girls will enjoy! Just make sure you don't watch any Blackadder II before you go and see it...

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