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Aardvark Daily

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24th March 1997
Nothing new under the sun
Last week saw another ComputerWorld expo up here in Auckland, so for those who were unable to attend, I'll give you a bit of a run-down.

Firstly, there were no mind-shattering technological breakthroughs to be seen. As has been the case for almost the past decade, each year just seems to bring incremental improvements in last year's technology. Softer curves on PC cases, more memory, slightly faster processors, bigger drives - and that's it.

What I did notice however was a significant increase in the presence of Java as a "technology" and as a practical tool for developing software solutions. On the Java bandwagon this year were IBM, SolNet, Cashlink with their Order Genie product and a couple of others who are looking to dabble seriously.

In the hardware arena, Mac-clones from Motorola were visible and looking very impressive with a pre-release copy of BeOS showing just what can be done with such machines.

US Robotics were pushing their X2 (56Kbps) capable modems and since I said I'd say something nice (even though I didn't win a tee-shirt) - "something nice". Actually it certainly seems that US Robotics have jumped to an early lead in the 56Kbps market, being the only supplier to have stock on the shelves while the others such as Motorola are held up by problems in the Rockwell chipset.

The best bits?
There were some stand-out products which caught my eye and made me feel inclined to engage in a bout of fiscal irresponsibility.

The 17 and 20 inch Sony monitors are very nice. As someone who sits in front of a computer for about 12-14 hours per day (yea, I know "get a life Bruce"), I believe the monitor is the most important component of any system. The Sony units have more controls than you can shake a stick at - right down to the ability to rotate the raster to account for variations in orientation within the earth's own magnetic field - now "that's classy!".

In fact, Sony are obviously getting serious about the PC market with rumours that they'll be introducing a desktop PC sometime later this year. In the meantime, as well as those monitors, they've got some high-spec CDROM drives (16x), Tape backups and multi-media speaker systems.

Sony have always had a reputation for quality and performance in their audio-visual gear, if they carry this across to their computers then look out IBM, Compaq and other "name" brands.

Now that's classy!
Two bites of the cake?
The worst bits?
It has to be said that by and large, IDG do a pretty good job of organising these events - and so they should, they've had enough practice.

According to Doug Casement, over 5,000 "Corporate Day" passes were mailed out to key people in the industry. These passes provided free admission to the show on Tuesday, so that the exhibitors could work their magic on these "big spenders" without the hassle of the "riff-raff" bothering them with trivial questions.

The following two days (Wednesday and Thursday) were classed as "public days" when anyone could walk in off the street and (after being separated from their $7) could wander about an annoy the salespeople inside.

You might ask "Why should anyone have to pay $7 for the privilege of being accosted by slick salespeople in cheap polyester suits?" After all, do the car-sales yards charge you an admittance fee if you're out kicking tyres on a saturday morning? Does the local Deka ask you to pay for the privilege of entering one of their comprehensively stocked stores?

The answer is (of course) that by charging people a "nominal" amount, you ensure that only the serious punters bother to come in and look around. Obviously a computer show holds great attraction to just about every 13 year old schoolboy (and girl) who'd just love to drop in and waste the exhibitors time by asking "can you fire up Duke Nukem on this thing?".

Okay, sure, I can agree with the need to pre-qualify visitors, but I wonder if $7 isn't a bit over the top. Why not simply ask people to present their business card to gain entry. This would ensure that visitors were most likely to be bona-fide prospective customers for the exhibitors, and, if a condition of entry was that the details on those cards could be collated and distributed to the exhibitors - it would make a fine little database for future sales activities. Of course those who didn't have business cards (and ID to verify they were who their cards said they were) could pay their $7.

My point is that I almost didn't go to the show because I'm just so damned busy these days. If I'd had to pay $7 then I probably wouldn't have bothered at all (after all, that's two big macs and a medium coke!). So... is the $7 really the only way to pre-qualify visitors to the show, or is it just another way to milk the cash-cow?

But wait.. there's more!
Every other time I've attended an expo at the showgrounds, I've always been able to enjoy the free carparking provided. I was surprised this year to find that there were "Carpark Full" signs at the main entrance and "$4 Show Parking" signs at the entrances either side.

Being the scrooge I am, I chose to simply drive a bit further down the road and park then enjoy a pleasant 3 minute walk through the park. I was astounded to see that the "free" carparks certainly weren't "full" as claimed. When inside the show I also noticed that there were fewer people than at the same time last year when the signs weren't there.

What's more, while wandering around I came across several visitors who were complaining that they'd had to pay a total of $11 to get in and that they felt it pretty slack that they'd been turned away from the "half-full" (but officially "full") free carpark and forced to pay $4 to use one of the others.

Still, can't please all the people all the time eh? And I guess the people who own the venue have to make a buck somehow.

Hey, that's not fair!
Make your mark for free
I want my homepage (update)
Of course after last week's little bit on Xtra and Clear's lack of web-page hosting for subscribers I was deluged with email from savvy Net users who quite rightly pointed out that there are a range of alternatives. For those whose ISP doesn't offer anywhere to make your mark, here are just some of the many places to look:

Yes, it's true, I've finally got this year's back-issues of Aardvark Weekly online and indexed.

The Aardvark Daily archives have also been updated.

about time!

I Can't Believe It's True!
No link this week - but I really can't believe it's true that the BSA felt my link to the "Warez" site featured in last week's issue was "promoting" such activities.

I also can't believe it's true that they don't have an NZ Web site or any email address that I can find. Software piracy across the Net is a problem that is growing bigger every day - BSA where are you?

Signed "Bill Simpson" (isn't it?).

Right Of Reply

nothing this week
The BSA apparently felt it better to voice their concerns through ComputerWorld.

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