It's Been An Interesting Few Weeks

It's a while since I wrote anything for our site, in fact I'm quite ashamed that I've probably let down the three regular readers who have expressed a passing interest in what goes on here in the depths of rural England. Mind you, it's been an eventful few weeks as anyone who is keeping abreast of the events concerning Wrox Press will appreciate. So this diatribe is about recent events, and the odd mildly interesting goings on at Chez DaveAndAl.

I suppose I ought to start with the Wrox thing. The day before Dave and I were booked to fly out to Redmond to look at a new MS product (sorry, can't talk about that yet), I discovered that Wrox had gone belly up - taking a big lump of my income with them, and what seemed to be all prospects of future earnings on work I've done over the last year or so. Well, that certainly made the trip more interesting. Kind of "never mind the software, gizza job!"

Thankfully a nice publishing co-ordinator who we've known for some time soon settled us down. By the time we got there she'd just about planned out the rest of our working careers for us. Thanks Stacey - you'll never know how much you helped to retrieve me from bordering on near panic, back to the more usual level of paranoia that is my life. And yes, I did briefly consider a "permie" post in Seattle, but at my age and with my ties here in England it's not really an option. I'd just about be ready for the rest-home by the time my green card came through.

Oh, and talking about bureaucracy, has anyone ever managed to get an ITIN or EIN from the US tax office? But I'm jumping ahead, more on that later.

Anyway, back in England just in time for Spring, the garden starting to blossom and grow, and it's time to do the usual business thing of reducing expenses and selling off the cats to raise money. One of the biggest expenses over here is Internet hookups. A 256K permanent connection line costs the equivalent of $10,000 per year, and that's at 3:1 contention so you only get a guarantee of around 88K at that.

So I phone our national telecom people and ask about a cheaper option. "Aha", says the nice man on the other end of the phone, "Your exchange now has ADSL". For the equivalent of about $1,800 a year I can get a 500K down / 256K up connection over my existing phone line. And that's with 16 fixed IP addresses. OK, so there's a maximum of 20:1 contention, but it's business-only so it shouldn't hurt that badly (they say). If you've managed to read this far, it's obviously working 'cos I switched over straight away.

Mind you, placing the order and getting the guys here to install it was the usual nightmare that seems to be mandatory when dealing with any large corporation these days. But I can't praise the fitters enough - they did exactly what I wanted, and explained lots of technical things that I wasn't sure about. We'll see how it goes. The fact that I was one of the first on my exchange with the business option means it's working at full pelt, at least for the time being.

What's laughable is that I have cable coming right up to the front door of my house. I've tried before to find out about getting an Internet connection through it, but it always seems to involve the same sequence of frustrating events: "You need to talk to our Birmingham Office" - then: "No, you need to talk to head office in London" - followed by: "According to our records you don't have cable at your location" (that's funny, so where do the the people next door who have your cable TV service get it from? Do you deliver it by carrier pigeon?).

But this time, amazingly, I actually got a quote. And it was very reasonable, so I tried to place an order. After telling me that my postal code was invalid (I must remember to tell my postman about that) they eventually phoned back the next day to say that the cable circuit I'm on "isn't equipped for data transmission". Hmmm ... does that tell us something about the real content of cable TV programming? And so much for our government's continual spin about "the UK being at the leading edge in Information Technology". It's obviously time for them to review the UK Wet String Regulations Act.

Moving on, though, what about the future for Wrox, Dave and Al, and Yes, I know the "Sorry We've Moved" page is a real pain in the bum (sorry, that probably should be "butt"), but we don't actually own the .com domain name so we're trying to ensure our visibility by moving to the .net one instead. As to the books - Wiley Publishing have bought some of the the best-selling Wrox books, the P2P Web site, and the rights to the "Wrox" brand. Meanwhile APress have bought ASPToday, C#Today and the rest of the books.

What's going to happen in the long term is likely to be good for readers, as most books will still be available (perhaps in a variety of formats), and hopefully the "Wrox style" will still be around. And I guess it's up to you as a developer to tell them what you want from them now and in the future. Meanwhile, thankfully, Dave and I have found another publisher who's prepared to put up with us, and so we should soon be out on the street in print rather than out on the street living in a cardboard box. And, with a bit of luck, without those ugly mugshots on the front cover of the books next time.

As the publisher in question is in the US (it seems they all are now) we have to get an ITINny thing and/or some EINy thing before we can get paid. Now, I thought our red tape here in England was bad enough, but heck - I never guessed how hard this could be. OK, so the forms and instructions are only mildly impenetrable, and I have to send off my passport to prove I exist, but 12 weeks to get an ITIN that I never knew I needed before? And I can only guess what will happen about the EIN 'cos I had to fax off a form where, according to the instructions, I only had to fill in answers to 3 questions out of about 20. I can see this is one that's going to run and run.

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