Simon’s Backup Weblog

I love LA…

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on October 28, 2003

..or at least I love finally arriving there. Two hours on the runway, and 11 hours droning a third of the way around the world in an aging ex-BA 747-200 are not my favourite way of spending a day. Even if we did have business class style seats. At least I did manage to read 2 and a half books (Adam Roberts’ On, Stephen Baxter’s Coalescent, and Peter David’s Knight Life).

Not much to see from the air until we reached the Colorado deserts. However I did get to see the forest fires near Salt Lake City, and then had a dramatic approach into LAX right over the California wildfires. An incredible experience seeing the lines of orange flame snaking over miles of mountain and hillside, and one I hope never to repeat. The smell of smoke filled the plane as we spent minutes flying through the dense smoke.

A forest fire near the Great Salt Lake

The hotel Microsoft is using for the European press is slap bang in the middle of Hollywood, and if you peer round the corner of the window in my room you’ll just see the Hollywood sign. Next door is Grauman’s Chinese and the Kodak Theatre, while the Hollywood Bowl is just up the road. It’s like being in the movies…

LA itself is an island in the fires, ringed by smoke to the north and the south. The midday light is clear and fine, while morning and evening are dark and hazy, with unusual lighting effects as the sun hides itself behind the banks of smoke.

Smoke from the Getty Center
Sunset through smoke
Smoke over the hills

Sunday morning and it was straight into the convention centre for registration. An early start – catching the 8 am bus. Breakfast was laid on in the press room, and the international press briefing sessions began on time. Unfortunately they assumed that we’d hardly heard of Microsoft, and quickly proved to be a wasted morning. We all grabbed lunch, and headed off back to the hotel, skipping the afternoon sessions for a dose of culture at the spectacular Getty Center.

High on the hills over LA, the Getty Center is a wonderful and completely free art museum. Built of Italian stone, and reached by a hovercraft cable car (honestly), it’s an oasis of calm, quiet, beauty. A surprising place to find, and a gentle way to spend an afternoon, drifting through the history of European art, and breathing in the still of the gardens. Humming birds darted around the flowers, and water splashed gently in the late afternoon heat. The baked white stone was filled with fossils – leaves and feathers.

The central courtyard of the Getty Center
A fossil leaf
A fossil feather
Sunset from the Getty Center

Monday, and the PDC began in earnest, with a three hour keynote from Bill Gates and Jim Allchin that unveiled Longhorn, the next generation of Windows, and a major change in the way applications willbe delivered and developed. Codenames abounded. Avalon is the long-awaited Universal Canvas, a single way of describing content that will render in browsers and applications. Indigo is transactional web services, and a tool for delivering service-oriented architectures. WinFS is a metadata driven file system, with realtime querying and cataloguing. And finally WinFX is the replacement for the venerable Win32 APIs – but this time, it’s all in managed code.

All exciting stuff, I’m sure you’ll agree.

Lots more to learn over the next few days, and I’m going to focus on Avalon and Indigo. They’re fascinating, and look set to be nothing short of revolutionary.


Leaving on a jet plane…

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on October 25, 2003

…or at least a specially chartered 747.

I’m off to the Microsoft PDC in sunny Los Angeles. It’s going to be a busy (and I hope fun) few days, with a lot of new technologies to look at and new concepts to understand. Finally we get to see some of the technologies behind the codewords: Longhorn, Indigo, Avalon, Whideby and Yukon. And I’ll get to write about them for The Guardian

I’ve also signed up for the PDC Bloggers service, so you can subscribe to their edited rss feed and see what a hundred or so bloggers are saying about the PDC.

(Edit: I’ve set up a syndicated feed at .)

Virgin finally gets its Concorde…

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on October 24, 2003

…or at least a paper version. Just click to download and fold…

I’ve seen things you wouldn’t believe…

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on October 24, 2003

…or in this case, heard.

Last week in an otherwise excellent greek restaurant on 7th Avenue in New York, a few blocks up from Times Square, the background music playing was Vangelis’ excellent Bladerunner soundtrack…

…on traditional greek instruments.

Well, this song’s hit its sell-by date…

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on October 24, 2003

…the Native Hipsters classic “There Goes Concorde Again”.

(I see it has also been appropriately re-released this week!)


Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on October 24, 2003

There’s a confirmed date for the Firefly DVD set. And if you can’t wait till December, here are some lovely hi-res pictures of the Serenity.

Computing futures we never had…

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on October 24, 2003

…but we might yet build.

Apple’s famous Knowledge Navigator video can be found online (needs QuickTime), and there’s also a piece by Jon Udell on it and where we are today. For a 1988 look at an information-centric future it’s surprisingly accurate, and we could acually build most of the elements in the video with current web technologies on a – though we’re still a long way from its natural language interface!

This is one of the clearest examples of the visionary thinking from so many different people and companies that inspired me to work in IT. Others included reading Ted Nelson’s Dream Machines at an early age, and Scientific American’s 1992 special edition on the future of computing. I still come across ideas that inspire me, like Microsoft’s Forum 2000 scenario videos – especially the “Steve Masters” distributed computing piece.

Perhaps we do still have it in us to change the world.

Time to get annoyed…

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on October 24, 2003

Oh great… the comment spammers have found LJ.

Full text searches of 120,000 books at Amazon

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on October 23, 2003

Amazon has just launched a new service: “Search Inside The Book”.

You can now do full text searches of 33 million pages in 120,000 books. Amazing. only so far, but roll on the rest of the world…

Faster, longer, louder.

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on October 23, 2003

Two snippets of news from the BBC that caught my eye this morning: BT has announced a launch date for 1Mbps ADSL services, and Richard Branson is working on a project with Burt Rutan and Steve Fossett for a solo round the world flight.

Also, Apple updated iTunes for Windows last night. Version 4.1.1 can be downloaded now.

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