- Bubble Trubble
- Computing cool
"On one particular server, there was this thing called 'source code' and we had to fly in a specialist to deal with it." That quote from Telecom COO Kevin Kenrick was rather telling, and summed up an apologetic launch of the Yahoo! Xtra Bubble service that replaces the existing Xtra stuff.
It was quite surreal to hear Kenrick and Co attempt to spin their way out of huge fiasco, in launching a service that Xtra customers didn't ask for.
What's more, Telecom freely admitted that it couldn't offer what Yahoo! can and as a consequence, it had to move crucial bits of New Zealand's largest ISP to Australia. For a presumably proud technology company like Telecom, isn't that quite an embarrassing admission?
That said, there are some good things to Yahoo! Xtra like the storage, large mail volume caps and Flickr Pro accounts but... you can get them elsewhere. You don't need to go to Telecom for them.
It's not entirely clear what Telecom's hoping to achieve by migrating Xtra to Australia, but it's probably part of a greater trend. I for one wouldn't be surprised if CEO Paul Reynolds ends up a Sydneyite after a shortish stint in Auckland.
I enjoyed reading John Pratt's piece on the NeXT Cube, a personal computer that just like the Commodore Amiga was way ahead of its time.
Now, I've actually used one of those. At the time, there was nothing quite like it around - the Display Postscript MegaPixel screens were wonderful, and the UNIX-y operating system was pretty amazing compared to single-taskers like DOS and Mac OS. Twenty-five mega Hertz worth of 68030 processing prowess was pretty mighty too.
When the NeXT boxes came out, I liked them so much I tried to get work in London to buy them, to replace clunky 8086 Amstrad PCs. We needed something WYSIWYG to produce better-looking documents and presentations, and Ethernet networking. The NeXT platform seemed to meet most of our requirements, and it looked cool too, always important for an ad agency.
However, we did a lot of work for Europe and needed solid support for languages other than English. At the time, there wasn't a word processor that handled languages quite as well as WordPerfect for DOS, and it ended up being the mainstay business application for us.
It almost worked: the NeXT Cube came with a DOS emulator, that could run WordPerfect... in theory. In practice however, WordPerfect ran way too slow, many features like graphical print preview didn't work and the whole lot crashed frequently.
What a pity, but the company finance people let out a sigh of relief that we weren't going down the NeXT route. Instead, we got some snappy PCs running DOS and slapped on Quarterdeck's Desqview multitasking shell and... got company cars and still had change over. That's how expensive the NeXT boxes were.
That's an impressive capacity upgrade for the Southern Cross Cable, isn't it? Alcatel-Lucent picked up that contract too, meaning the Franco-American giant now has a finger in every single telco pie that I can think of in the region. In fact, Alcatel-Lucent has become something of a supra-national telco here, handling the networks for Telecom,
Vodafone, Telstra and Kordia.
I think it's worth keeping an eye on this, as it's not entirely comfortable to have a single, large company essentially controlling our telecommunications technology.
Either way, I hope SCC will drop the pricing for overseas traffic and that the operators that deliver it will cut it too, so that end-users will get the benefits from the capacity upgrades.
XKCD Rule 34Cartoon from www.xkcd.com
Robert X Cringely
Skype: You got some 'splainin to do
When Skype went AWOL for 48 hours last week, it came back smelling of cheap perfume and rotgut gin. Some 220 million users waited in their doorways wearing curlers and holding rolling pins, demanding to know where Skype had been. Naturally, Skype had a good excuse at the ready. They blamed Microsoft. A security update that rebooted millions of computers at the same time revealed a heretofore unknown weakness in Skype's peer-to-peer VoIP network. At least, that's Skype's story and they're sticking to it. Normally this is a good strategy. If something catastrophic happens to you, it's always a good idea to blame the Redmond devils. You have at least a 50 percent chance of being right. And everybody knows what a terrible influence Microsoft is. Unfortunately for Skype, Redmond isn't supporting the Patch Tuesday alibi. Microsoft says it spent the night with a sick friend. And while Windows Update's habit of blithely rebooting computers in the middle of the night is incredibly annoying, it's not usually fatal. Skype's 'perfect storm' excuse isn't washing with many users, who believe there must be a more sinister explanation, given those lipstick stains on Skype's collar. But Skype vehemently denies spending time with Svetlana, that Russian hacker floozy who brought the Estonian government to its knees earlier this year. The problem has been fixed, and Skype has promised to never visit that bar again. But trust once shattered is difficult to restore. I'm afraid the honeymoon is over, Skype. Time to do the dishes.