Hold that Tiger

The Rat

The Rat made his reputation by seeming to be everywhere at the same time. But late last month, his multitasking abilities were stretched to the limit when he got roped into attending both the Apple World Wide Developer Conference 2004 and Sun Microsystems Inc.'s JavaOne convention.

'They're right next door to each other,' pointed out his latest acting boss at the agency. 'If you're going to San Francisco for one, why should I approve a plane ticket for someone else to go to the other?'

Unable to refute that particular bit of flawed logic, the wired one found himself trying to work out a schedule for the essential sessions without wearing a path in the pavement between the two conference venues. Perhaps, he thought, technology could help.

But his flight arrived late the night before, and it was a sleep-deprived rodent who stumbled into Sun president Jonathan Schwartz's keynote at 8:30 a.m. Monday'and then sprinted to Apple CEO Steve Jobs' 10 a.m. keynote across the street. And then back. And forth.

Fortunately, Jobs revealed a potential pain reliever for the cyberrodent's sore footpads. In the preview of Apple's next operating system, Mac OS X 10.4, known as Tiger, Jobs demonstrated a new version of Apple's iChat client with up to four-way videoconferencing. And Schwartz showed off a Java videoconferencing client for the new version of Sun's Java Virtual Machine'ironically also code-named Tiger.

A bright light went on in the Rat's fertile brain. If he could find willing accomplices, he could see everything he wanted at both conferences via IEEE 802.11b WiFi, from the comfort of a beanbag chair in the JavaOne coders' lounge. Maybe he could even do four sessions at once, saving enough time to catch some of the sights around San Francisco.

So, during a coffee break, he installed the developer's test version of Apple's Tiger and the early release of Sun's Tiger on his Apple PowerBook. After loading the chat clients and surfing Internet Relay Chat channels for a few minutes, he recruited enough accomplices.

Then, dragging a comfortable seat close to a power source and wireless access point, the whiskered one sat down with a fresh cup of serotonin substitute and started up multiple video chat windows. His newfound partners obligingly pointed their webcams toward their respective speakers and slide decks.

If a technical presentation can induce drowsiness in the sleep-deprived, it stands to reason that four at once should be a guaranteed knockout. Before long, he was out cold in his beanbag, dreaming.

When the sessions ended, the Rat's helpers'failing to raise him on their remote links'dropped their video sessions, figuring something had gone wrong. Then the wirebiter awoke with a start. There were four video feeds of himself on the PowerBook screen.

'Wow,' he said groggily. 'I really can be in four places at once.' And he subsided back into his dreams of videoconferencing tigers.

The Packet Rat once managed networks but now spends his time ferreting out bad packets in cyberspace. E-mail him at [email protected].


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