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.....technobabble .....for the week of January 8, 2001

.....technobabble.....much has been said about Rambus, the company that designed the controversial new memory technology that Intel chose to be the basis for their future computing platforms a few years ago. Most of what has been written has in fact been quite negative. I have tried to stay out of the debate on most of the site, since the goal of The PC Guide is to be factual and informative, and I try not to cloud my portrayal of technology with my opinions. Well, at least not too much. :^) Of course, this column is a different matter, I can say whatever I want here, at least within reason. :^) If you are not familiar with the entire fiasco surrounding Rambus, this article in the Electronic News provides a pretty good overview of the situation, along with links that go to related articles. Of course, the opinions on Rambus run the gamut, and it's very hard to actually find anyone discussing the company in neutral terms; most people and organizations seem to either love them or hate them, with more in the latter group than the former.....

.....it's impossible to really express a full opinion on Rambus in a couple of paragraphs; I'd have to write a long opinion piece, which would not be all that different from others you have probably already read. The matter of whether or not DRDRAM--Rambus's product--is a worthwhile technology, is not even the real issue for me, except tangentially. My concerns relate primarily to the way Intel has handled its relationship with the company. They agreed to a contract that requires them to market Rambus technology, without knowing if it would even be worthwhile from a technical standpoint. As a result, when early indications were that DRDRAM was hard to make, overpriced and didn't offer any real performance advantage over standard SDRAM memory, Intel couldn't just decide to scrap it. They kept pushing the technology even after it was obvious that it wasn't what they had bargained for.....

.....now, Intel is a for-profit corporation, and they have the right to try to sell products, and to make deals, in whatever ways they think will maximize value to their shareholders and employees. But at the same time, as a market leader, their actions have an important impact on virtually everyone in the PC world. Intel's move to Rambus from industry standard memory represents an effort on their part to "close" an important part of the PC technology equation, to let them control more aspects of what goes into every PC. This may have been to Intel's benefit, but probably not anyone else's. What the Rambus fiasco underscores is how very important competition is in the areas of memory technologies, CPUs, chipsets and motherboards. Industry standards and open architectures are our allies, not royalties and special boardroom deals.....

.....in the inaugural edition of .....technobabble, I talked about how the PC industry is in rather sad shape, and how the online world is in many ways doing even worse. A number of interesting events made the news this week along these lines. The most striking is the decision by UGO Networks to dramatically reduce their payments to affiliate sites. Several gaming networks have recently cut out affiliate programs, or gone out of business altogether, as described in part in this Register article. This is leaving many smaller sites out in the cold. Heck, even the venerable New York Times has had to lay off 17% of its Internet employees! It's a very trying time in the Internet community, and the Web is likely to look very different in 12-24 months than it does right now. Of course, that's an easy prediction to make in such a young and dynamic industry, regardless..... :^)

.....I should say that despite all the difficulties, I do not anticipate The PC Guide going away any time soon. While the problems in the industry have definitely affected me, I believe that it's important for the good sites to try to weather this storm. I may be forced into a position where I must reduce the time I spend on new material and updates on the site, but I hope to never have to take the site down entirely. I made a decision early on to run the site "lean and mean", because as a worrywart, I anticipated that something like this just might happen to the online industry. Hopefully by staying small, the site will stay around.....

....in the same vein, here's another article on how PC industry woes can help you, the customer, in purchasing a new system. Of course, part of the reason for these sorts of articles is to convince you to go and buy. :^) If you need a new system then your timing is good, but remember that you should only purchase when you really need a machine, since prices are always dropping, and technology always improving.....

.....if you have email (and who doesn't?) then you already probably know what spam is. I don't mean the rubbery meat product, but the annoying unsolicited email that shows up every day in your inbox. I got a particularly amusing one today, offering to sell me a "universal boot disk that will work with any CD-ROM drive" for the bargain basement price of $7.50. Well, that's not a lot of coin, but it's certainly pretty good money for a ten-cent floppy disk containing drivers you can get for free from your hardware manufacturer's web site. Don't fall for this sort of thing, folks.....

.....and now, a look at some more feedback from The PC Guide Reader Survey. I have received a number of comments from people who really like the layout of the site, with frames and a nested hierarchical structure, and some comments from readers who hate the frames. It's been pretty much like this for most of the last three years, actually. Frames seem to be very much a "love 'em or hate 'em" affair, sort of like Rambus. ;^) One reply said that the frames were "dated". Maybe so, but my goal here is not to be trendy. :^) To be honest, I don't really like them all that much myself, but I use them for a specific reason: they make it easier to organize a large amount of information. With almost 3,000 content pages, the frames make the site easier to navigate, or at least, most of the readers seem to think so. It's possible that I could get rid of them, but it would take many, many hours of my time, which I prefer to apply to content.....

.....well, that's a wrap for this week. Did this column leave you inspired, or just make you perspire? Give me your feedback, please!


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