Code Rush: Netscape during the dot com boom

A couple of months ago Jeff Atwood pointed out a 60 minutes long PBS documentary about Netscape during the dot com boom called Code Rush. He seems to like it, so I downloaded it off Youtube where its makers put it up under a Creative Commons license. To quote Atwood:

Remember when people charged money for a web browser? That was Netscape.

Code Rush is a PBS documentary recorded at Netscape from 1998 – 1999, focusing on the open sourcing of the Netscape code. As the documentary makes painfully clear, this wasn’t an act of strategy so much as an act of desperation. That’s what happens when the company behind the world’s most ubiquitous operating system decides a web browser should be a standard part of the operating system.

Everyone in the documentary knows they’re doomed; in fact, the phrase “we’re doomed” is a common refrain throughout the film. But despite the gallows humor and the dark tone, parts of it are oddly inspiring. These are engineers who are working heroic, impossible schedules for a goal they’re not sure they can achieve — or that they’ll even survive as an organization long enough to even finish.

What Atwood is perhaps too polite to mention is that the behemoth Microsoft wasn’t just competing with Netscape at the time, but it was doing so with a superior product and with the deck stacked for them—Microsoft owned the platform upon which Netscapes products had to run. These were the days of the Microsoft monopoly trials.

(Downloading off Youtube? I use the Download Helper plug-in for Firefox. I don’t entirely trust them—their website looks way too slick—, but am too lazy to investigate further. In other words, I am mentioning the plug-in, not recommending it.)

Outcasts

In 2007 the BBC announced they were going to produce a new science fiction series “with echoes of Blake’s 7” (the Sunday Times wrote at the time). Good news for science fiction fans, and even better for Blakes 7 fans (the misspelling is intentional, as that is what the show was called). With all the blogging scifi writers and blogging scifi fans I follow, and all the surfing I do for scraps about Blakes 7, it is inevitable that I will be warned in time when Outcasts will start to … what, you say? It’s already on? I am five episodes behind?

So I caught the sixth episode yesterday. They broadcast it in an unfortunate time slot. I think that in the future I will use the Internet Video Recorder to watch it.

Solid TV science fiction. Shades of Battlestar Gallactica—and not just because it had Jamie Bamber in it for one episode. No, it has a mother and a father figure. The father figure is more of a scrappy Patrick Stewart than an Edward James Olmos though. The mother seems to be a blond, older Elizabeth Weir. And there is a bad guy, who I assume is supposed to be the Gaius Baltar slash Kerr Avon slash dysfunctional child.

The back story, from what I have read, is that the show revolves around a fairly recently colonized planet. Contact with Earth is sparse. And that is all that Wikipedia and IMDB have to say.

Yesterday’s episode has one self-contained story line, and two developing story arcs. The self contained thingy was a whodunnit, with a proper rescue of the prospective murder victims at the end. Police officer Cass has a secret that precludes him from sleeping with his colleague Fleur, a hottie with a lot of hair and a Scottish accent. So instead he sleeps with a woman who for reasons that do not become quite clear tries to ferret out his secret, and then steals his gun. She then becomes part of a fairly basic murder plot, or was already part of it—the story focuses more on how Cass becomes a suspected kidnapper. In the background president Richard ‘Jean Luc’ Tate does the wise man walking into the hills thing—Shaka, when the walls fell, except that these hills harbour cannibals.

Outcasts is no Blakes 7 though. For one thing, the show is full of basically decent guys who just seem to have landed on the wrong side of the law by accident. There is a reason why in Blakes 7 the writers landed a building on top of Gan halfway season two. Not that Blakes 7 doesn’t have its fair share of basically decent guys—it’s that the not so decent sides of them keep popping up with the result of pushing the crew deeper into misfortune. Which is, I guess, what makes it a better show.

(ORAC – When we reach the appropriate coordinates, I can simulate the necessary signals to open the silo and allow this flyer to enter.

DAYNA – Oh, sounds good.

VILA – No it isn’t. Sooner or later we’re going to drop into one of these holes in the ground and never come out.

And then they do.)

But as I said, and as far as I can tell based on watching just one episode, a pretty decent series. No worse than any of the Star Trek franchises if you ask me. Battlestar Torchwood.