_ _ _____ _ __ <*the* weekly high-tech sarcastic update for the UK>
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the Marc Antony of high-tech oratory."
- HAL JOSEPHSON of Invisions Awards on STEVE JOBS' Macworld keynote
that'll be Steve's "I come to bury Apple, not to praise it" attitude
>> HARD NEWS <<
A brilliant but possibly sociopathic recluse, accused of
creating intricate devices that spread terror across a
nation - a universally reviled figure, caught by the
authorities after twenty years' pursuit - he is on trial
for his very life. But can the man the US government claim
is behind the "Unibrowser" threat truly defend himself - or
is BILL GATES just too mad? The evidence points to the
latter, after a series of increasingly paranoid outbursts
over the pending anti-trust case. After last month's
unsuccessful attack on the judge (the so-called "you
talkin' to me?" defence), MICROSOFT this week turned on the
court-appointed investigator, Lawrence Lessig. Lessig, they
said, had exchanged e-mail with friends at Netscape in
which he accused Microsoft's Explorer of "screwing up" his
bookmarks. Clear bias, said MS - presumably as Lessig had
failed to refer to the bookmarks as "Microsoft Favourites",
the new name for bookmarks on the Microsoft Web(TM).
Meanwhile in BusinessWeek, Gates made the demented claim
that the current anti-MS backlash is being secretly run
by... IBM. "People don't understand," he says, "how IBM set
out to eliminate us ... Unless we're allowed to enhance
Windows, [it] would certainly be eliminated." Enemies
everywhere, and only one brave man protecting us from an
OS/2 planet: expect more insights into the fractured mind
of Bill as the trial progresses.
- but believe me, you don't want Bill Gates inside your head
-"we're sorry if we have made any statements that
would suggest we do anything but respect [the DOJ and Judge]"
- in time you will call me ... Special Master
Meanwhile, the anti-Bill, STEVE JOBS, won over everyone
with his "humble, moi?" keynote speech in the ever-
shrinking planet of MACWORLD. Jobs continued to keep the
big announcements for another time (so no sub-$1000 Mac
announcement, no new servers, no Rhapsody gameplan), and
merely kicked around the same QuickTime, Microsoft-Are-Our-
Friends, online shopping nonsense. Oh, and one other thing
- Apple made a profit in the last quarter of $45 million.
Yeah, surprised you, didn't he? Only five more years of
profits like that, and Apple will have paid back the $884
million it frittered away in the other three quarters.
Other Macworld turn-ups: there's a new Debabelizer,
Freehand 5.0 came out, and errmm... errr...
- can the last one out turn off the little Newton bulb?
- look, drop this Kai Krause bollocks and we'll be nice again
As spammers threatened to publish a database of AOL
addresses on the Net (isn't that what USENET is these
days?), Microsoft cut out the middle man and bought out the
entire HOTMAIL free-mail-on-the-Web operation, addresses
and all. The deal cost Microsoft around $350 million. Given
that Hotmail claims 9.5 million users, that's about $35 a
pal. Cheap if you consider the hundreds of dollars spent
per head trying to get MSN subscribers; expensive if you
just think Hotmail is just a bunch of people too stingy to
stay with one ISP longer than the free trial - or if you've
seen the spams offering 16 million email addresses for
$149. It all comes down to what Microsoft plan to do with
these people. And you know what? We reckon they have *no
idea*, but they'll watch what Yahoo does with its
cheapskate free e-mail subscribers, then copy that. Yes,
Yahoo's next on that Microsoft "imitate to eliminate" a la
- complaints to email@example.com://www.microsoft.com/
- no, no! they're trying to eliminate *us*, don't you see?
>> ANTI-NEWS <<
berating the obvious
just as the rumours were getting boring, WEBMEDIA *really
does* close down as a Web design company - now plans to
move into "corporate strategy"... AMAZON outage... AOL
outage... THE WEB magazine (US) folds... NETLY NEWS
"cutting back"... NT 5.0 needs 64MB of RAM... NETSCAPE
announce loss, blame "free software".. MICROSOFT claims
will become "kindler, gentler"; also hopes to flog 100,000
betas of Win 98 at $30 apiece... "Digital TV May Not Take
Off Quickly" reckon satellite-decoder makers PACE MICRO
TECHNOLOGY... ZIFF-DAVIES claim new publication is "IT
launch of the decade", possibly unaware that the UK has at
least 7 weekly IT mags already... Albert Einstein, Pablo
Picasso, Jim Henson, Thomas Edison, Alfred Hitchcock,
Amelia Earhart - celeb endorsers in US Apple "Think
Different" campaign have one other thing in common: they're
all dead... Dept Of Justice "Special Master" reveals that
IE4 made him "really angry", also stole his "soul"...
initial DVD launch unsuccessful, consumers "suspicious"...
TODAY programme reveals "reading books still popular
despite the growth of the internet"
>> EVENT QUEUE <<
social glue for the non-adhesive
It's been only 8 months since the last "annual" LOEBNER PRIZE
contest [see NTK 02/05/97], but maybe that's how fast things
move in the grant-starved world of artificial intelligence
nowadays. This year's $2000 Turing Test to find the most human-
sounding computer program will be held on Sun 11/01/98 in
Sydney, Australia, apparently as part of Australian Natural
Language Processing Fortnight (do your own Neighbours/ barbie
joke here). In other competition news, AUDIOCAST are offering
$10,000 (and a salary) to the "geekiest radio presenter" they
can find, while a London-based short-poetry mag promises a
UKP500 prize to the best haiku (free form or 5-7-5
conventional) that they receive before 15/02/98. Feel free to
enter all three of these - but just make sure you don't get
your entries mixed up, OK?
- or, for the most computer-sounding human...
- "applicability to the radio format". ie: bots allowed
- added new Linked Forms/ more Linked Forms/ still 3 added to
>> TRACKING <<
blips on the nerdar
QuickTime 3.0? Pah! DVD? Yeah, right. Maybe it's time to
revive arguably *the* most extreme video compression codec
of all time: TTYVIDEO. Developed by Chris Pirazzi, it takes
any SGI video input and turns it into live ASCII art. And
not only does it look cool (apparently it's particularly
good with cartoons), Chris lists a huge range of off-the-
shelf ttyvideo utilities that you may already own: Real-
time compression? compress file.movie ! Full pixel-level
editing: emacs file.movie (or vi! or jot!). If only we can
convince a few RealPlayer users to switch, the bandwidth
will all come *flooding* back. We mention this now, because
this technique has recently been advanced by Czech demo
coders, who have ported an entire PC graphics library to
work with realtime ASCII art. We suspect it's no
coincidence that this library is call-compatible with the
graphics libraries used by Linux Doom and Quake. Yes, you
read that right - ASCII Doom. ASCII Quake. And if you can't
be bothered with that, the "bb" demo is still fun.
- time for teletypies!
- bringing new meanings to the word !@!*!*?!!*
Pens. Lovely, aren't they? But loveliest of all is the UNI
pen breed, those transparent rollerballs that are usually
quite expensive and whose purchase involves going into art
shops and pretending to be all trendy. Fortunately, someone
persuaded Uni to put up a Web site which semi-automatically
gives away their products to anyone who completes a simple
trivia test. At last, a UNI distribution system that
rewards the intelligent over the stylish! Sadly, the site
uses Macromedia Flash, so they won't be getting the truly
singular. But what need have they of pens?
- watch out for the new UMN152 retractable! MmmmmMMMMmm!
>> MEMEPOOL <<
hasta la altavista
ISP smurfing... Amiga Doom *and* official Quake ports? ...
What *is* going on in the 5th floor of BT's scary
Martlesham main lab block?... Winner of our "Award" Award -
http://cm.bell-labs.com/who/ches/awards.html ... Snowcrash
the movie? ... Operation (the Mad New Doctor's Game) now
re-packaged as "Alien Autopsy"... Mo Mowlam - Mo' Problems
... http://www.smudgereport.com/ ... pi-man warez at
http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~nickjh/Pi.htm ... small,
local black hole GRS 1915+105 now inexplicably emits vast
jets of hot gas at 92 per cent of the speed of light every
half hour... anyone got a Perl script to filter the tedious
sport news out of Brian Hook's .plan file? ... What if
Microsoft designed children's toys? Find out at
Depressed, lonely? Isn't that the idea? The Goth Singles'
Network at http://www.gothicclassifieds.com ... emphasis
definitely not on "real" - http://www.realflight.com/ >> GEEK MEDIA <<
fast, cheap, and with a remote control
TV>> big comedy clash tonight, with no less than 6 new
humour-oriented shows, including thankfully-Bremner-free
satire THE FRIDAY NIGHT ARMISTICE (9.35pm, Fri, BBC2),
cheapo sketch-romp COMEDY NATION (12.05am, Fri, BBC2),
sitcom-of-Satan DRESSING FOR BREAKFAST (9.30pm, Fri, C4),
and the reliably formulaic EUROTRASH (10.30pm, Fri, C4)...
our picks: the top-class neuroses of FRASIER (10pm, Fri,
C4) and - wait for it - the vastly underrated FAITH IN THE
FUTURE (8.30pm, Fri, ITV)... it's the most sexually
explicit kids' advice show we've ever seen (well, at least
by post-Chart-Show standards) - is that why only swinging
Londoners get LOVE BITES (12.30pm, Sat, LWT)?... you'll
wish Invisible-Man-Behaving-Badly Neil Morrissey *would*
disappear from THE VANISHING MAN (8pm, Sat, ITV)... three-
way TV cops go bad, with the first-and-best NAKED GUN movie
(9.05pm, Sat, BBC1), the Lalo-Schiffrin-scored Dirty-Harry-
sequel MAGNUM FORCE (10.05pm, Sat, ITV) and blah-blah-
Tarantino gritty-no-music failed-heister DOG DAY AFTERNOON
(11.05pm, Sat, C4)... basically another sinisterly amusing
genetic comedy for Arnold "Twins" Schwarzenegger, though
JUNIOR (7.15pm, Sun, BBC1) does spawn some acutely
disturbing shots of the heavily pregnant former Terminator
gambolling in a flowery meadow, dressed as a girl... no
real revelations about the Challenger shuttle explosion, as
DISASTER (8pm, Mon, BBC2) implicates the "O Rings" - maybe
they should have used some other, tougher, crispy cheese
snack instead... BBC2 temporarily consoles fans of soon-to-
conclude SEINFELD (11.15pm, Tue, BBC2) with a double
episode... Sean Connery yawns through aimless sci-fi
Western OUTLAND (10pm, Tue, C4)... and TV Nation sidekick
strikes out on his own in LOUIS THEROUX'S WEIRD WEEKENDS
(9.30pm, Thu, BBC2) - ObNTK: is he the son of novelist Paul
Theroux? Yes, of *course* he is...
MOVIES>> yes, that's Emma Thompson *and her real-life mum*
in not-as-dull-as-you'd-think luvvie-fest THE WINTER GUEST
(MPAA: rated R for "language and brief sensuality") -
fortunately, director Alan "Die Hard" Rickman sticks behind
the camera... not too many "stiffy" jokes in similarly
death-obsessed quirky love story KISSED (imdb: romance/
morgue/ drama/ necrophilia)... Jennifer Aniston continues
turning down tough-action-heroine roles for average
romantic fluff like PICTURE PERFECT (MPAA: rated PG-13 for
"sensuality and related dialogue")... fans of Wim Wenders'
rambling Euro-musings should know just what to expect from
THE END OF VIOLENCE (imdb: thriller/ drama/ big-brother/
fbi/ film-industry/ lost-identity/ violence) - except
perhaps some odd slapstick bits, loads of CCTV action,
ID4's Bill Pullman, and that bald guy off Murder One... oh,
when we did THE JACKAL (MPAA: rated R for "strong violence
and language") last week by accident, we forgot to ask: for
sheer ridiculous pointlessness, could Bruce Willis'
disguises maybe even rival Val Kilmer's ones from The
"ZINE" NOT "HERD">> Our New Year resolution was to get this
unhealthy love/hate obsession with US ratpile media out of
our system, so what better way than a final binge of Yank
zines from New York's SEE HEAR - http://www.zinemart.com
... looks like we arrived just in time, with the best of
the US small-press publishers sailing out on well-earned
book deals: the first 16 issues of Lisa Suckdog's grunge
slag zine ROLLERDERBY ($3, PO Box 474, Dover, NH 03821) has
made it to book form (ISBN: 0922915385), while the zine
itself rolls on with interviews with Beck and neo-nazis in
the latest ish... Paul Lukas' obscurely titled BEER FRAME
($3, 160 St. Johns Place, NY 11217) translated to the
marginally more informatively titled INCONSPICUOUS
CONSUMPTION (ISBN: 0517886685), a commendable trawl through
the reject bin of modern consumer products and services...
but our favourites sell-outs from the East Coast remain the
"old people say the craziest things" oral histories in THE
DUPLEX PLANET and its various comic spin-offs ($2.50, PO
BOX 1230, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866), and the
*spectacularly* self-destructing HATE COMIC #28 ($3.95, c/o
Fantagraphics, 7563 Lake City Way NE, WA 98115) whose well-
deserved success seems to have led creator Peter Bagge to
kill off everyone's favourite characters... in the "wish
we'd never seen it" category, we can't imagine FUCK ($5,
Randall Phillip, PO Box 2217, PA 19103) would ever sell out
to The Man, and even if there was a market for full-colour-
shotgun-wound coffee table books, we'd never get it past
Customs... back on this side of the stormy pond, following
the runaway success of Brit slacker bible THE IDLER
(recently relaunched, now with even more time-wasting
pages), they also do a sort of semi-pro junior spin-off
called CHEAP DATE (UKP 1.00, PO BOX 16778, London EC1M
5XA), "for thinking thrifters". A bit Londony, suspiciously
high B-list celebrity count, perhaps too self-consciously
'70s kitsch (like Ben Is Dead did to death). But good on T-
shirts, fun to read, and cheap - just like it says on the
>> FINAL COMPO <<
Alan Braggins of Ncipher wins the final prizes of our '97
competition - a book about how to get on the UK Internet
(sorry), the audio soundtrack to MDK (joke: if Nintendo
ever released it, they'd say it stood for "Mums, Dads &
Kids") - and perhaps the most cruel and unusual punishment
gift of all, a 3-year-old video called GAMES ON THE .NET
published by Pearson New Entertainment in conjunction with
SubCyberia and hosted by "virtual celebrity" WAVEY DAVEY
WINDER. *Thrill* to Davey's pioneeringly matey presenting
style, bravely avoiding obvious traps like ever making eye
contact with the camera. *Gasp* at the cover's bold
assertion that you should "Say goodbye to games consoles"
(hey, it was 1995, how could they have known?). And
*cringe* with horrified nostalgia at the free CompuServe
software included with the video, offering "over UKP 80 of
free surfing", all on just one floppy disc! Games On The
Net is available now in Virgin Megastores for UKP 1.99. And
even we don't know the current whereabouts (or career
prospects) of Mr "Wavey" Davey Winder. But we'll try and
track him down to receive our "special" award at the
endlessly trailed, probably in Feb, fabulous .NOT Awards.
>> SMALL PRINT <<
Need to Know is a useful and interesting UK digest of things that
happened last week or might happen next week. You can read it
on Friday afternoon or print it out then take it home if you have
nothing better to do. It is compiled by NTK from stuff they get sent.
It is registered at the Post Office as "yeah, we guessed Straw too".
NEED TO KNOW
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