Feeds

Hold on, Booker prize judges - Stob's penned a steampunk hit

Everyone has a novel in them. Sadly this includes Reg columnist Verity

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

Trans-universal iPhone drawback

I gave the card back to him. It was a lot to take in, and I didn’t know where to begin, so I began by stating the nerdious: "I guess if you don’t have electricity, you don’t have any computers or mobile communications devices."

Bill was indignant. "Of course we have mobiles - look, here is my iTalky." He felt in his pocket of his coat and placed an object about the size of a snuffbox on the table in front of me. I picked it up. It was smooth and it glowed green, faintly.

"Radium glass," he said, proudly. "So you can read it at night."

I examined the object. "Read what? I can’t see anything."

"It runs on clockwork. I’m afraid it has wound down."

"Why don’t you wind it up again?"

He looked away. "Can’t do that. It’s sealed. Have to take it back to the shop. Only a Genius can wind it up, costs 53 guineas."

One recognised the feeling. I changed the subject: "So you use clockwork and coal as your power sources in this universe?"

"Not at all. Personal transport is mostly powered by nuclear fission these days, although you still see the odd steam-powered Moggy Minor on the roads."

"Same Moggy thing where I come from. But you really put uranium in your cars? Isn’t that really dangerous?" I asked.

Bill was defensive. "Nah, nothing to worry about. It is lead-free uranium."

The room was suddenly full of heavy silence, like a fallen cake. Bill said: "I see you have a Raymond Chandler in your universe. Mr Chandler makes exceedingly good similes."

I said: "Never mind about that. How come a Mesco Tetro contains an inter-universal gateway?"

"Distribution and stock control, of course."

"What?"

Bill sighed the sigh of one who is being tediously questioned by a not-very-bright child. "How do you think you get to enjoy crisp flavours like Eloi and Soylent Green?"

"Never heard of them."

"Well, you may know it as something different. The marketing boys try to be culturally sensitive. Probably labelled 'hand cooked' or something like that; they have found it works much better when selling to the more gullible universes. You’d think people would clue up. I mean, how the hell do you cook a crisp by hand? Do you plunge your pinkies into boiling fat to fish them out when they’re done?"

I said: "Let’s get this straight. You are telling me that Mesco has solved the most difficult questions in physics and uses the resulting technology to shift crisps?"

Bill sniffed. "Don’t you sneer. Logistics is a serious business. As is stock control. Mostly still done on paper, needless to say. It is a complete sod sustaining a Bluetooth link between universes. A butterfly flaps its wings in the Amazon rain forest 20,000 years ago and pouf! Your connection is toast."

"So Mesco is the first multi-versal multi-national?"

"The first? I don’t think so!" Bill was scornful. "It’s not even the first multi-versal supermarket. Where do you think Hejrose gets all its exotic fare from? Now if I were to tell you what went into its papaya and kumquat sorbet..."

"I don’t want to know," I said hastily. "In fact, all I want to do is go home. I don’t think I like it here. Besides, my prawn kurma is losing its chill."

"Prawn kurma indeed. You’ve got to hand it to them. Very well." Bill pushed back his chair. "I’ll escort you back to the gateway. Just one thing, before you go."

"Yes?"

"I like to ask my guests if there is a single stand-out technology that is key in their universe but underdeveloped in ours. You know," he winked at me confidentially, "so I can keep a weather eye out on the stock market."

I looked at Bill thoughtfully. To be honest, I hadn’t much taken to his manner, and felt no particular urge to improve his financial prospects.

"Just two words, Bill," I said. "Vulcanised asbestos."

Less is more

I stepped through the doorway, and the oil-lit dimness brightened to the eyeball-aching whiteness one associates with fluorescent lighting. It was a relief. One day I might look back on my adventure fondly, but right now it felt to good to get away from the late, late Victorians.

An outraged, male voice behind me called out: "Oi!"

I started to turn around. "What?"

"You can’t just barge in like that. This is the five-elves-or-less queue."

"Five elves or fewer," I said automatically, and then I said: "Oh." ®

Security for virtualized datacentres

More from The Register

next story
PEAK APPLE: iOS 8 is least popular Cupertino mobile OS in all of HUMAN HISTORY
'Nerd release' finally staggers past 50 per cent adoption
Microsoft to bake Skype into IE, without plugins
Redmond thinks the Object Real-Time Communications API for WebRTC is ready to roll
Microsoft promises Windows 10 will mean two-factor auth for all
Sneak peek at security features Redmond's baking into new OS
Mozilla: Spidermonkey ATE Apple's JavaScriptCore, THRASHED Google V8
Moz man claims the win on rivals' own benchmarks
FTDI yanks chip-bricking driver from Windows Update, vows to fight on
Next driver to battle fake chips with 'non-invasive' methods
DEATH by PowerPoint: Microsoft warns of 0-day attack hidden in slides
Might put out patch in update, might chuck it out sooner
Ubuntu 14.10 tries pulling a Steve Ballmer on cloudy offerings
Oi, Windows, centOS and openSUSE – behave, we're all friends here
Was ist das? Eine neue Suse Linux Enterprise? Ausgezeichnet!
Version 12 first major-number Suse release since 2009
prev story

Whitepapers

Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
Simplify SSL certificate management across the enterprise
Simple steps to take control of SSL across the enterprise, and recommendations for a management platform for full visibility and single-point of control for these Certificates.