Metcalfe's law, propounded long ago by the inventor of the Ethernet protocol, states that the usefulness of a network is equal to the square of the number of users. Manes's corollary, propounded a minute ago by the inventor of this column, states that the usefulness of a network equals zero if you can't get the net to work at all.
Stories by Stephen Manes
Here's a wireless phone that's big, clunky, and never really worked indoors. Now it won't work outdoors either, because the service it connects to has gone dark--except for "heavy industry and government customers." It's the Iridium satellite phone, harbinger of a trend for the new millennium: the essential service that disappears, usually at the very moment you begin to depend on it.
The casket is ready. The grave is deep. The dirges are sounding. Enemies on every side declare the PC fatally fat and musclebound, awaiting what they insist will be its imminent death.
The web has become indispensable to my travel planning. But even the best travel sites still remind me of a meal at a Hong Kong dim sum parlor: Though the parade of dishes is impressive, some of the tastier items are hidden from view or totally unavailable, and some of what you get is not quite what you expected. "Travel Web Sites: Just the Ticket?" outlines some of the pitfalls as well as the benefits. Here are a few strategies I've learned in my own virtual peregrinations toward real-world travels.
I've always been aghast that some fingerprint-ID schemes might let a severed digit unlock your ATM account.
The more wireless I get, the more wireless I realize I could be--if the many glitches ever get solved.
In the early 1980s, PC World's founding editor, the late Andrew Fluegelman, developed PC-Talk. It wasn't just the best computer communications package of its day; it was also the first important freeware, distributed via user groups and online bulletin boards. Next came shareware, which worked on the honor system. Developers offered a free tryout but expected a small payment if you used it.
If You Buy It Online, Will It Come?
Microsoft still reports issues (its charming term for bugs) with products it has been selling for years.