Issue #30
14 October 1996
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Aardvark

Edition #30

THERE MUST BE GOLD AT THE END OF THIS RAINBOW
Did you know that CNN has 130 full time staff dedicated solely to maintaining its web-site?

Are you aware that Microsoft are sinking over $100 million a year into marketing the new "facelift" MSN? That's right - this is just the marketing budget and doesn't include the cost of production! It's anticpated that they'll have spent almost half a billion dollars before a single dollar in profit is earned.

Closer to home, what about Telecom's huge investment in the Xtra web site? With Chris Tyler quoted in The Press as saying that they don't expect to see a profit until around 1999 it's obvious that the total investment in this piece of content is not insignificant.

Seems that everyone's targetting 1999 as the year in which the gold paving is to be laid on the Information Superhighway. I wonder what will happen if the net goes the way of the pet rock? I also wonder if these organisations realise just how fickle the net-marketplace can be and just how little relationship there is between capital investment and quality when it comes to internet content.

UNLIMITED 400Kbps OFF-PEAK NET ACCESS FOR US$39.95/MTH?
Here in New Zealand we have a local company (Technicom) reportedly gearing up to provide a 45Mb satellite-based internet feed into the country which will cost individual ISPs $32,000 per month for just 2Mbps of connectivity.

Is that cheap? Not according to this site which will offer unlimited access to up to 400Kbps of incoming bandwidth for just $129.95 per month by direct satellite access. That's 3 times as much as ISDN with no volume or time-charges!

Technicom are charging an additional $2K setup fee to establish the 2Mb links to an ISP's site - but the set-up cost of this direct-to-earth feed in the US is just $895 for a dish and interface card.

This is quite a smart idea and it's cheap because you don't need any form of transmitter - the "outbound" part of the link is provided by your existing dial-up internet connection. The satellite link acts just like a big fat cable for receiving data. Great for surfers, not so good for anyone planning to run a web-site.

Once again it seems that NZ is stuck with horrendously high communications costs which mean we seem to have the choice of fast or cheap internet access - but getting both at once is decidedly unlikely.

NEW CONTENDER FOR "BEST SEARCH ENGINE" CROWN?
What's your favourite search engine? Alta Vista? Yahoo? InfoSeek?

Well take a look at the new entry from InfoSeek - their "ultra" engine. Although it's currently only in beta test - it's pretty fast and quite comprehensive. Seems like new submissions are handled in real-time which is quite impressive to. On their comparison page they claim to outpace just about all the other pretenders to the throne.

A MINUTE'S SILENCE PLEASE
You know an industry is maturing when the names of the founders of many of its companies and inventors of its technologies start appearing in the obituaries.

A couple of weeks ago Seymour Cray died in a car accident (but he was pretty old anyway) and now it seems that Benjamin Brown has gone to the big cleanroom in the sky. Who was he? Just the guy who developed a great deal of the technology we use to day in 3.5" floppy disks.

I'm sure I saw some wrinkles on Bill Gates' baby-face the other day too!

RATS TAKE OVER FROM BUGS!
The most plausable explanation regarding the origin of the term "bug" as applied to faulty computer software was that in the early days of computing when electro-mechanical devices were commonplace, one particular problem was eventually tracked down to a small insect which had become lodged between the contacts of a relay - hence the term "bug" was applied to all unexpected malfunctions, be they software or hardware.

Well it seems now that rats are getting in on the act! Last week Stanford University's power supply was interrupted for almost a day, an event which threw much of Silicon Valley into cyber-darkness as BBN Corp, the leading ISP for over 400 high-tech companies was also knocked out.

Reports indicate that "several fried, dead rats" were found in the switchgear of the campus power system. Nobody knows whether the rats were using Netscape Navigator or Microsoft Internet Explorer as their preferred browsers :-)

AND HOW ABOUT THAT ELECTION EH?
Don't worry - I'm not about to get all political - I'm just going to congratulate the people that built and operated the election-night web site. This was good stuff and an excellent indication of just how effective the web can be at delivering time-sensitive information without the endless rehtoric which surrounded the TV coverage.

To all those responsible for the site design and operation - take a bow, you deserve it!

What will be even more interesting now however is to see just how much use the political parties make of the web as a method of keeping the people informed and (more importantly) soliciting public input on key matters of policy.

RIGHT OF REPLY
Anyone mentioned by Aardvark who feels that they have been misrepresented or who wish a "right of reply" are invited to send email to me at ror@aardvark.co.nz and the contents of that email will be printed verbatim for all to read.

RIGHT OF REPLY
Nothing this week

FROM THE "I CAN'T BELIEVE IT'S TRUE" DEPARTMENT:

I can't believe that Xtra and Voyager acted the way they did this past week. Who was it who said something along the lines of truth being stranger than fiction?

Fortunately they both seem to have come to their senses - perhaps it was the spectre of Clear's impending entry into the marketplace which generated a much needed reality-check.

So You Don't Forget!
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The entire contents of this publication are copyright 1996 to Bruce Simpson, all rights reserved. Don't copy it without my permission - just ask, I'm unlikely to refuse any reasonable request.


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