Monthly Archives: April, 2001


Internet-connected coffee pots are useful after all!
The i-Pot keeps an eye on elderly relatives by monitoring their tea-drinking!


Sending an SMS message this morning, I was struck by how the enforced brevity lent it a certain similarity to the good old telegram.

SMS messages are limited to 160 characters and, typically entered on a keyboard which is far from optimal, would probably be short anyway. With some service providers they are also ridiculously expensive – I pay about 12p (18c) to send a few words. Despite this, one can usually say enough to get one’s meaning across and the convenience makes it worth while.

This made me wonder: Would the world be a better place if email weren’t, as it is now, effectively free of charge? If we had to pay a couple of cents per word per recipient for every email, it might encourage us to be more succinct, and it would also greatly reduce spam. I suspect the result would be a better quality of life for all 🙂


Somewhere, yesterday, I read something to the effect that:

If a picture is worth a thousand words, how come nobody’s yet painted a picture which says that?

While I was in the shower in my usual semi-concious state this morning, all sorts of developments of this idea started popping into my head. Like:

  • Maybe pictures have a kind of minimum efficient transfer unit size, and are only useful for concepts of a thousand words or more.
  • Maybe pictures are just not good for meta-information?
  • Is a video programme worth a thousand audio programmes? I think not. Does this disprove the rule?
  • Is the ease of depicting a concept pictorially inversely proportional to the number of words needed to describe it?

Of course, some might argue that any good picture is not only worth a thousand words, but implicitly conveys the subtext that a picture is worth a thousand words, and hence nobody needs to spell it out explicitly!

Mmm. Time for bed…


The Trojan Room Coffee Pot is still getting attention. Here are some of the recent articles about its planned shutdown:
* Front page of London Times
* Front page of Washington Post
* The Guardian
* Wired
* Der Spiegel online

Update, 2017: Many of these links are no longer live, but you can find updated links and various other bits of media coverage on my Coffee Pot page. Thanks to Narendra Meena for help in updating these.


A recent survey says that less
than half of US college students are now taking hifi systems to college with
them, because they’re using PCs instead.

There’s a Wired News Radio interview discussing some of the


Is it just me, or are most Microsoft products no longer interesting? I used to live on the cutting edge, always wanting the very latest release of IE, the most up-to-date service packs, and so forth. I used to read Paul Thurrott’s WinInfo regularly. Now, I don’t really care.

Perhaps it’s because with Windows 2000, for the first time, they’ve made an operating system which, while still far from perfect, is good enough. Good enough for me to ignore it and start thinking about the things I actually want to do with it, rather than the OS itself.

And Office 2000 is probably also good enough, but I hardly use it, because I so rarely have to produce documents on paper now. Poor old Microsoft.

The scary thing is that, if I understand the reports on the Win2000 sales figures, a large number of people have never progressed this far and have ground to a halt at Windows 98, possibly the least reliable OS Microsoft have ever produced. I don’t think I’ve never even seen a running copy of Windows ME. Or is it that it’s just indistinguishable from Win98?

Of course, that’s just the products, as we’ve understood them in the past. .NET is interesting, albeit mainly as a kind of riddle. And Hailstorm is interesting, as a plan for world domination. But operating systems and office suites are a bit passe, which they have, of course, realised.

I am, however, intrigued by the Tablet PC. We always used to call such things WebPads, but Microsoft do like to reinvent the wheel and call it the Round PC.

Why is it that none of the former WebPads have been successful? I’ve seen them at demos, trade shows, exhibitions, and always thought them very cute, especially since I spend an increasing amount of time each day reading stuff online and would like to do so on the sofa. But they’ve never hit the mass market. I wouldn’t even know where to try and buy one. Is it just because they always cost as much as a laptop, and customers don’t want to spend that amount of money twice?

Anyway, the prevalence of 802.11 networks means, I think, that their time has come. Compaq have apparently signed up to make one of these things, and if they do as good a job as they did with the iPAQ it should be very interesting.

© Copyright Quentin Stafford-Fraser