PACKET RAT

Spielberg he ain't

Some high-tech tools save time, and others suck it away.

Lately, the Rat has found himself spending more time with the second kind as he explores the brave new worlds of digital video and Web logging.

Blogging, as it is sometimes called, entails posting one's thoughts, opinions and other minutiae on the Web. Several pieces of downloadable software make this process almost too easy'for example, Dan Bricklin's free-on-the-Net Blogger, at www.blogger.com, and UserLand Software Inc.'s Manila, at www.userland.com.

UserLand's founder, Dave Winer, is the master of the form. He hourly publishes DaveNet and Scripting News, which has little to do with scripting.

Now that blogs have become the latest form of marketing, Dave is getting plenty of attention from big-time media.

The Rat, amused by the frenzy, concluded that two Web curmudgeons were better than one. So he recently started his own weblog, Rat Central, at www.thepacketrat.com.

About the same time he undertook blogging, the demands on his remaining free time spiked on another front.

Far-flung members of the extended Rat family, spoiled by the furry one's frequent updates to the new baby ratling's online presence during his family leave, were demanding more and more content.

'And we want better production values,' one in-law whined during an IP phone call.

'I'll give them rich media to choke on,' the wirebiter simmered.

Having recently acquired a new Apple Mac G4 Cube with Mac OS X for technical evaluation, he whipped out the digital vidcam and began capturing content.

With a little help from Apple iMovie, he created the mother of all video blogs, filling gigabytes of drive space on his secure Web server with QuickTime movies of the ratling in action.

Like all projects undertaken in spite, the Rat's Internet filmmaking went a bit overboard. He digitally enhanced the audio with thundering SurroundSound.

He green-screened the Rat brood into news footage of cabinet meetings. He scored a sound track and got U2 to cut a single for it.

After completing the final director's cut of his 17-hour masterwork, he thoughtfully divided it up into hour-long episodes.

Then he posted them as links on the family Web page.

Not much has been heard from the relatives since, perhaps because their lines are still tied up trying to download a 5G video at 56 Kbps.

But the Rat has bigger plans.

''I smell an Oscar,' he told his better half after he got off the phone with his freshly hired publicist. 'Or, maybe a Pulitzer.'

'I smell something, too,' Mrs. Rat said. 'I suspect it's because someone needs a change.'

The Packet Rat once managed networks but now spends his time ferreting out bad packets in cyberspace. E-mail him at rat@gcn.com.

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