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David's diary: September 1996

Well, it's a week into the job now, and it's beginning to take some form of shape. I'm going to be working on a French language project for a little while, probably using Toolbook, but not sure yet. Speak to you all soon.

Now looking forward to my fourth week in the new job - and hey, there must be a pay-day coming up soon! I am indeed working on this French project I mentioned before. I can't say I'm the world's Number One fan of Toolbook, but I am going to grin and bear it for the sake of learning the package, and a modicum of diplomacy; I've been giving Delphi 2.0 a trial-run (a mere 15Mb download from Borland's painfully slow web site) and have to say that I like it, and will be campaigning to be allowed to use it in future projects.

Anyway, better be going - I will do a proper diary entry sometime when I have better cut and paste facilities than here at the flat. Yes, I know Linux can do cut and paste between virtual terminals, but it doesn't help that the mouse driver seems to have gone dead since we did a serial link between our PC's.

My what a wonderful afternoon, it was Staff Induction time, health and safety and all that! Highlight was when they asked what the Occupational Health department was for - "avoiding litigation" came the rapid reply...

Well, as promised, here is a rather more substantial entry, consolidating perhaps on what I've said over the last few brief edits as well as some more thoughts and other bits and pieces. I will probably try to get into a routine (hahaha!) of doing a reasonable length edit such as this one about once a week, with newsflashes as necessary.

Life can be split into four distinct areas: flat, work, car, and miscellaneous...

The flat is going interestingly. My flatmate's girlfriend is starting a job locally very soon (she had been working in Derby up until now) and she's going to be moving in. Except the place really isn't big enough, so they're going to be looking for someplace else. This leaves me in a bit of a dilemma, though thankfully the options are positive in nature. Either I can have the contract on this flat passed over to me, and I get it to myself, or they could try and get a three-bedroom house and I move with them. Then again, I never promised that my residency here was going to be long-term, so I may use it as the trigger to find a place for myself anyway - I came here basically because it was offered to me, and I needed somewhere to live. Not that's it's bad at all, I don't wish to suggest for a moment that it was a last-ditch option because it wasn't, but it was always on the understanding that it wouldn't necessarily be permanent.

We now have three phones in the flat, including one answerphone complete with daft message, of course. This is utterly excessive, I know, but it sure is nice having a phone on your desk! We've also just upgraded to a faster modem on the internet-enabled PC, though 75% of the time it still connects at 14,400 - mind you that's 4800 baud faster than the old modem we had, so maybe we shouldn't grumble! We're shortly going to get a separate Demon account for the flat, which of course comes with Demon's 5Mb of web space allocation, not to be sneezed at, even if the performance on their server is dire.

Work is picking up, kind of. I'm still lumbered with this French project, which would be fine except that it's been decided that it is to be written in the awful Toolbook language, and we can't even use an up to date version of it, because we've got to be compatible with legacy versions of Windows - you see the average Open University student can't be expected to run much more than a 386 with Windows 3.1, and many argue that even that kind of requirement is a bit of an imposition, and against the university's policy of being open (and, by inference, cheap) for all. However, I understand that the technology faculty has finally prioritised its projects they need doing, so it may be that I can get something else to do for at least some of my time, which might be a bit more gripping and less frustrating from an authoring-tool viewpoint.

I don't wish to make this an open condemnation of Toolbook, but it really does strike me as an object-oriented system gone utterly wrong. It has been designed for non-programmers, but has a horrid scripting language which although conceptually clever, is, in practice, horrendously difficult to follow, doubly so when it's someone else's code you're trying to understand. The O-O model is fundamentally flawed, and is not at all helped by the fact that object don't really have to have names, and it doesn't matter if you duplicate the names you do use, wholesale. The syntax-checking is abysmal, and run-time errors are nearly impossible to trace. I must however make these grievances to the proper people, otherwise nothing will get done about it and I'll end up with even less hair than I already have, and probably slit wrists into the bargain.

The car... Well as those relatively up-to-date with what's been happening will know, I've now bought my mum's old Metro, and will be running that for the time being. The settlement with Direct Line for the writing off of my Nova was far from satisfactory, but I was advised by a dealer to "take the money and run". With a new home and new job, I consider this to be a bit of a fresh start, so although I am still furious about the loss of about 300 pounds, I really can't be bothered with worrying about it any more. Hopefully by next spring or summer I will have enough cash in the bank that I can go out and get something much nicer than the Nova with a part exchange on the Metro. I would have a good look at the Seat range, and I wouldn't rule out a newer Metro. Basically I would look to avoid anything too desirable to anyone with an ounce of street-cred. Fiestas, Astras, and, of course, Novas, are apparently the most popular cars with young people these days, and that's why mine got nicked, I guess.

Meanwhile, my mum's old Metro (and E-reg 1.3) is going strong, though I gather it will probably need some work to pass its next MOT, which will be a bit of a downer, hence my wish to get rid of it fairly early next year. It's getting about a quarter of an hour's use a day on average, plus the odd journey back to my parents. Petrol is lasting very well; I've only had to fill it up a couple of times since being here; it's the runs home that use it the most, I think, though all those short journeys to work can't do the economy much good - mind you here in Milton Keynes all the grid roads are 60 or 70mph, and traffic is generally light, even at rush hour, so it's undoubtedly better than the average "urban cycle" - though stopping for roundabouts every half mile doesn't help.

As for the "miscellaneous" slot... Well I haven't had any opportunity to do anything musical lately, not helped by the fact that there's insufficient room here for even a fraction of the gear I have back at my parents. I'll probably be beta-testing the Res Rocket Surfer DRGN for the PC, but I will do that at work probably. The DRGN is a system for real-time MIDI jamming over the internet between many people simultaneously, unlike its competitors which are strictly two-user. The Mac version has been up and running for a while, but the PC version is just about ready to be tested, and Willy "London Beat" Henshall keeps asking if I want to be in on it...

The Obscure Orchard talker (telnet://orchard.imaginary.com:4141) is still going strong, with a revised set of web pages going on-line real soon, which I've been helping on. We still want lots more members. Come along, why don't you! We're a friendly bunch, and if live talk is what you want, there's no faster system that we know of. People connect from all over the world, including the USA, Japan, Sweden, and even the UK. It's been developed using the JeamLand code, written by my good friend Alcides, which now has its very own usenet discussion group on news:alt.talkers.jeamland, though this has fairly limited propagation outside Demon at present.

WaveCraft, my 'ground-breaking' sound synthesis system for Windows got a good boost the other day with a great review in Sound On Sound - maybe not the biggest UK music technology magazine, but probably the most respected. Hopefully my old company, Last Unicorn, will get stacks of new orders now - which will make me happy as I'm on an increased percentage royalty since I left. There were a lot of people who, despite reading the equally good reviews in The Mix and Future Music, were still waiting for the 'authoritative' assessment from Sound On Sound. The only sad thing about the Sound On Sound review is that it's getting on for a year since the other magazines covered it, so it's looking a little dated now. I just hope that with this new publicity, Last Unicorn can finally secure a good distribution deal, and, as they intended, ultimately sell the product off to a company with the time and resources to put into making it the massive success it could be in the right hands.

Well I think that's all for today. I expect I'll have had to break this into manageable chunks to paste into Mono without errors. I doubt future entries will be quite this long, but I had a fair bit to catch up on really!

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