Since August, 2001. Surely it can’t last…
Thursday, August 30, 2001 ↓
SLOWLY TURNING SWEDISH
In about sixteen hours, I'll be back in Gothenburg. Time to pack my little bag.
In a link nicked straight from the Blogger home page, USA Today expounds: Online journals popular with the opinionated.
SPACE SHUTTLE A-GO-GO
August 30 is significant in a couple of respects to the developments of NASA's Space Shuttle. On this day in 1984, the shuttle Discovery was launched on its maiden voyage, after three postponements. After the Challenger disaster of 1986, the result of launching at a temperature so low that rubber O-rings on the solid fuel rocket boosters lost their resilience and failed, a redesigned booster underwent its first full test firing on August 30 1987.
TALKING TELEPHONE NUMBERS
Some time in the not-too-distant future, we're going to run out of IP (Internet Protocol) numbers the "telephone numbers" of the internet, that allow us to identify computers and make connections between them. The current version of the protocol only allows for a maximum of around 4.3 billion unique addresses, which a CNN article reports will be insufficient to cope with the growing number of internet-enabled devices. I think a larger and more immediate problem stems from the fact that, as Bill Moffitt of Sun Microsystems puts it, "We basically hogged all the IP addresses in the United States. So as the rest of the world comes online, there's a shortage." I was fascinated to read that MIT, for example, holds a block of 16 million IP numbers, more than is available for the whole of China, where half the world's population resides.
We've seen a mildly analogous situation here in the UK. More than once in the last decade we've gone through the anguish of changing the telephone number system in order to generate more numbers, ostensibly to accommodate the expansion in mobile phone use (which seems to be higher per capita in Britain than elsewhere in Europe). Boy, were the phone companies popular!
At least, changes in IP addresses won't mean that businesses have to reprint all their stationery with new numbers, re-paint trucks and signs, and so on. But I foresee oodles of technical fun when it comes time to implement the changes planned for the IP system like having the old and the new protocols working side by side...
Wednesday, August 29, 2001 ↓
PARLOUR GAMES FOR THE NEW MILLENIUM
I used to play "folded paper" games similar to The Exquisite Corpse when I was a kid; this new site brings playing the game into the internet age. I look forward to seeing some results.
Tuesday, August 28, 2001 ↓
THE SPEED AND EASE OF E-COMMERCE...
So all I wanted to do was book some flights for one of my regular trips from Edinbugh to Gothenburg with my regular airline, KLM. I zipped over to their web site at www.worldwebreservations.com, and started punching in all the details.
After selecting dates, times, etc. I was presented with a screen telling me they couldn't currently give me a price for those flights, please try again later. I did. Same again. I tried again later. Same again... and of course, I had to start all over from scratch each time, because for security reasons, the site only stores session variables for twenty minutes.
On something like the sixth attempt in as many hours after the first, I finally got seats booked. The stumbling block before seemed to be related only to calculation of the price, and not availability. I'd love to know why. Were they realigning all their exchange rates, or something?
Anyway, several hours later I accomplished my objective. Would I have been quicker telephoning them? Undoubtedly. Am I stupid? Yes. I am also persistent. And curious as to how long it takes a vendor to fix problems like this.
One aspect of this transaction remains to be proved, though. On the last two occasions when I made this trip, the web site quoted me a price of about £485 for the tickets. When I collected same at the airport just before flying, I was charged about £115 more than the price quoted to me and confirmed by e-mail. After much wrangling, e-mails, telephone calls, a fax, and a further follow-up telephone call, I finally got KLM to reimburse me for the two overcharges. When I booked the flights today, I was quoted the same price as before. I've got a feeling I already know what will happen when I hand over my credit card at the airport...
Sunday, August 26, 2001 ↓
THE WEB A ROUTINE ELECTRONIC DEVICE
Amy Harmon, writing in an article in the New York Times, finds that people are spending less time casually surfing the web, following links to see where they lead, but using the Web more as a focused research tool. I find this hardly surprising. I'm sure there will always (or for a long time) be people like me, who could cheerfully waste millenia if not simply hopping from link to link then browsing the myriad sites we have bookmarked. But for many, the initial excitement of the internet has worn off, as it does with most other new toys or pastimes. But in playing with it, these folks have found that the Web is an invaluable, accessible research tool, and when they need it for that purpose, it's available and they know how to use it. And I think that's progress.
A REAL (FORMERLY) LIVE VAMPIRE
I have a great affection for the Malaysian peninsula, where I've travelled quite a bit. But some frankly flaky stories do come from the region, such as the capture of a vampire in Selangor, Malaysia, as reported in Singapore's Straits Times. A bomoh, by the way, is a kind of medicine man.
THE THIRTY-NINE GREENMANTLES OF PRESTER JOHN
Still on an historical but more literary note, this day in 1875 saw the birth of the Scottish author John Buchan, creator of adventure classics such as The Thirty-Nine Steps, Greenmantle, and Prester John. As part of the HTML Writer's Guild's Project Gutenberg, I marked up a copy of The Thirty-Nine Steps in XHTML, and you can read the entire novel online. That's right; no trips to a bookstore or even to Amazon.com, no money to be handed over... a classic novel for free.
ROMANS IN BRITAIN NOT QUITE
It was on this day in 55 BC that Julius Caesar, master self-publicist and not unaccomplished Roman general, launched the first of his two unsuccessful "invasions" of the British Isles. Tough luck, Jules you didn't get to see what Claudius' legions did almost a century later.
Older material is stashed away under Replays.