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Rupert Goodwins' Week

Written by Rupert Goodwins, Contributor

Nice how things come together. At the end of last week, I went to a pal's Suit Burning Party: he's an old hippy who looks like Noddy Holder and has been in reinsurance for far too long. This month, he engineered his escape from the City to a life of East London bohemia -- the evening started in a wine bar in Spitalfields Market, half populated by suits and half by eager artistic types. It ended -- very late -- in a curry house in Brick Lane, where said pal was helped from his veggie masala, into a cab and thence on to paradise -- at least until the redundo runs out.

However. As part of his new life, Noddy is setting up a combined bookshop/Internet attic/artistic space. At the same time as this is being opened, a friend of his is starting an installation (oh, you know: like a playroom only you mustn't touch the toys) just down the road in -- ahem -- some gentlemens' toilets. Wouldn't it be nice, said Noddy, if we could link the two events together by the Net. Maybe even do some art there. We looked at the cost of running a data link between the two points. Hmm. Not really on.

And then -- bliss -- a nice new company phones me up on Monday morning and says "Wanna test our 8 kilometre-range microwave radio network bridges?"

From the ensuing conversation, three things became clear. First, that wireless bridge companies are unused to people being enthusiastic about their products: the man was audibly amazed. Second, that they're delighted to have their stuff given a 'real life' test. Third, I didn't quite have the guts to say "gentlemens' toilets" when discussing the location of the planned gig.

But we have the links. Now to get routers, projectors, cameras et al. More on this project as it happens... and the review should be fun to write.


It happens every month, and still I'm surprised: Fast Forward time. If you don't read PC Magazine (for shame!), then you won't know that this is a page devoted to some hot technology that may not quite be here yet but we think will make a splash on arrival. It's not always easy finding a suitable subject: we get lots of press releases and leads for things that claim to solve all known problems, but they usually turn out to be about as interesting as Germolene.

We're right up against the wire this month: nothing plausible, and there's a good chance the readers will be told the best new tech is clean white paper, unsullied by words or pictures.

And then, as if by magic, three arrive at once. Asynchronous processors, Java agents and Rambus memory chips. I only had room to write about one, so here -- as a special bonus for being a devoted RGD reader -- your pocket guide to all three.

1. Asynchronous Processors. Like ordinary microprocessors, except that they don't use a clock. An instruction is coped with by different bits of the chip, as before, only each bit runs as fast as it can independently of the others. Advantages are that a lot less power is used and a lot less noise generated: disadvantages are that they're very difficult to design and not yet much faster. But they could be.

2. Java agents. Tiny bits of Java code that can move across systems via the Net and collect information as they go. Makes a great deal of sense now we have decent cross-platform standards for comms and computation: don't expect Microsoft to be keen, though.

3. Rambus memory chips. Fancy 1.6Gbytes/second memory bandwidth? By using low voltages, short buses, clever design and some mainframe tricks, Rambus has produced 800MHz, 16-bit wide memory chips that will cost little more than the sort we have now. Only downside? The memory modules are called RIMMs.


Latest rumour from the Far East: digital camera prices will plummet even faster than currently in the run up to Christmas. Which is good: our new offices are so long we're considering installing videoconferencing between the south end of the building (us) and the north end (our pals Online). We miss them!


I have the inestimable pleasure of introducing a friend to Fractint. You may remember that: a freeware program that generates the finest pulsating coloured patterns available to the pharmaceutically unaltered. It was very hip in the late 80s and early 90s, doing things with the 386 that nobody considered possible. And then it went away. Or rather it didn't: if you've ever played with it way back when, try it on your nearest superfast Pentium with mega graphics. It's twice as gorgeous now, and really deserves a revival.


Wooooah! Kewl! Just when you thought the Pilot was as small as a PDA could comfortably get, here comes Rex. Down, boy! Rex is a eager little critter, the size of a PCMCIA card (oh, ok, PC Card) and indeed he plugs into a slot just like a modem or a memory module. Only Rex has a huge great LCD screen on him, and buttons, and Rex talks to your scheduler/diary/memo software. Pop him in, press a button and he's loaded with the day's activities, your address book and a ToDo list! And Rex costs between $120 and $180!

Sounds good. Drawbacks seem to be that there's no way of entering information other than via your computer; it's really just an aide-memoire, and that it's not for sale on this side of the Atlantic yet. But we're trying to get one in for an in-depth look: a PDA the size of a credit card just has to be worth playing with.

For now, take a ganders at www.franklin.com.

Lowlight Of Week: Trying to fix the MD's laptop keyboard with magic contact cleansing spray, and buggering it up completely. CV available on application.

And Highlight Of Week.

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