By summer 2001, we had our business plan and our proposals and our business cards printed. We’d bought an off-the-shelf shell company, zHosting Ltd. All we needed was Â£600,000 and a second-hand mainframe to install in a hosting centre like SCOLocate. So we booked our first meeting with IBM to discuss leasing options, and our first session with possible angel investors …
On September 12th, 2001.
So there you have it: the punchline to the extended shaggy dog story that is my career history in the computer industry. And now you know why I’m a novelist rather than the chief technical officer of a successful dot-com. Timing is everything – and my whole non-writing career has been one damn comic double-take after another.
That meeting was … well, the subject of conversation was rather overshadowed by the events of the previous day. NASDAQ was closed, air travel in North America was shut down: the hammer was about to come crashing down on the tech sector for the second time in two years. We buried zHosting outside the graveyard gate only a month later, and went our respective ways; Andrew back to consultancy for a couple of years (he’s now running a successful bespoke software business), and me to writing.
A lot of people – including the BBC – are touting Google’s Chrome OS as a competitor to Windows and Linux:
The news could also be a blow to the open source Linux operating system, which had taken an early lead on netbooks, but then lost out to Microsoft’s elderly Windows XP. (BBC link)
Of course, this isn’t the case. Chrome OS is just another distro, albeit one backed by an enormous amount of dosh:
The software architecture is simple – Google Chrome running within a new windowing system on top of a Linux kernel. For application developers, the web is the platform. (Google blog)
UPDATE: I note that the BBC has removed the paragraph quoted above.
It’s an interesting idea – a distro where the only app is the browser – but it’s not really anything new; it’s just another iteration of the thin client idea. Of course, it might be the right iteration this time.
It also rather goes against a lot of the ideas people like Alec and Adriana are coming up with – ideas of owning one’s own data are rather scuppered by every application running on some anonymous server somewhere. Maybe, after a while, users of Chrome OS will start to buy UI-less home servers to run their apps on and store their data.
Maybe we need a UI-less distribution of Linux, running Apache (or whatever) and a whole bunch of open source webapps – word processing, spreadsheets – and, of course, a Mine! server.
Via Alec, two bits of news on this venerable and insane operating system, which ran on GEC mainframes back from the late 70′s through to the turn of the century, and was a part of UK Internet history.
Although I never really poked around inside it, I recall its bizarre directory structure and its awesome command syntax: everything you did sounded like it was a command to launch the nuclear weapons from some 80′s hacker movie. FCOPY USER SINK TRACE DESTROY for example, to delete all a users files (IIRC).
I think if people were able to take these 140 characters and develop a poetic Western form – a haiku of our own in which all human existence could be compressed into those 140 characters – that would be a satisfying thing, but that’s not what I see when I read them.
Of course, I’m not sure if "Hugh Laurie Doesn’t Like Twitter Much" is actually news, and I also have issues with "Laurie says despite their opposing views, he hopes to work with Fry again." Because his opinions on a social networking site are obviously going have a massive effect on their lifelong friendship…
Anyone having weird unreliabilities with Flash under Chrome?
My first thoughts with this are a bit like my first thoughts with Google Mail – it’s forcing me to work in a way I’m not used to, but which might be better in the long run. I’m not sure yet. It’s fast as hell, though, and it renders this here blog just lovely.
- Memory requirements (use Shift-ESC and then, if you like, ‘stats for nerds’) look bad to start with, but in comparison with Firefox after you’ve been doing stuff for a while it’s a lot better. Chrome lets go of stuff. Firefox … doesn’t.
- The omnibox is very nice indeed, but takes a while to get used to
- Not sure about the tabs at the top.
- Don’t really like the lack of toolbar configurability.
- porn mode! Sorry, ‘incognito mode’.
- Strewth it’s quick. Just thought I’d mention it again.
- ooh, you can resize a textarea box. That’s very handy.
I’ll keep it for a while and see how it goes. Incidentally, Microsoft’s comments are hysterical:
The browser landscape is highly competitive, but people will choose Internet Explorer 8 for the way it puts the services they want right at their fingertips, respects their personal choices about how they want to browse and, more than any other browsing technology, puts them in control of their personal data online.
Surely those are the things precisely the things which IE doesn’t do?
UPDATE: I’m sure I read the license through, but the Reg have noticed this glaring problem:
11.1 You retain copyright and any other rights that you already hold in Content that you submit, post or display on or through the Services. By submitting, posting or displaying the content, you give Google a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free and non-exclusive licence to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute any Content that you submit, post or display on or through the Services. This licence is for the sole purpose of enabling Google to display, distribute and promote the Services and may be revoked for certain Services as defined in the Additional Terms of those Services.
Another Update: They’ve sorted that. Apparently they were just using boilerplate from other projects. Bloody lawyers! Clause 11.1 now reads:
11.1 You retain copyright and any other rights that you already hold in Content that you submit, post or display on or through the Services.
I want it and I want it now… of course, I’m not looking forward to writing this damn thing to make it work on Webkit too.
Later today, Google are going to find out what their servers are made of.