Spaced out

While we love the cute guinea pigs in their wee space suits, E-tales is unconvinced by Telecom's recent prize offering of a trip into space for two lucky customers who sign up for broadband with its ISP, Xtra, during the next two months.

Apparently, the civilian astronauts get to hitch a ride at 85,000ft on a Russian MiG-25 fighter plane. A what? Yep, an aeroplane, albeit a super-duper one, but still a strictly domestic beast, in our view at least. And 85,000ft? No, that is not outer space. It certainly qualifies as the outer reaches of the atmosphere, but, according to the United States Department of Defense, space begins at 81kms (50 miles) -- 85,000ft is just under 26kms. The department awards all pilots who fly above this altitude astronaut wings. Obviously, the craft flown are mainly spacecraft, although a few X-15 pilots have flown at this altitude.

We feel the Xtra marketing department maybe a bit spaced out -- but their prize certainly isn't.

When size counts

King Kong versus the 800lb gorilla? EDS, the beneficiary of more than NZ$1 million (US$688,000) in government funding for its "Best Shore" project in 2003, last month trumpeted the number of jobs it has subsequently created. Around the same time, it was revealed that film producer Peter Jackson's company would receive NZ$25 million in tax breaks for King Kong -- presumably having also created jobs, albeit some in the short-term.

What was that about the knowledge economy being the way of the future?

All customers are equal...

One of our staffers has been trying to sort out a little telco mess for a friend-of-a-friend and grab an interesting story on the way.

A Telecom help-person, on being told of said customer's lack of success and the alleged poor advice given regarding transferring services between it and TelstraClear, asked whether our man would be willing to give the customer's name and contact number, "so we can sort the problem out".

On being told that the name was one she would recognize -- a moderately famous writer -- the help-person responded instinctively: "Oh, dear, that makes me twice as nervous now.

"But it shouldn't of course," she added hurriedly.

Fluffy tale

And now for something light and fluffy -- a tale of a very understanding feline. One of our intrepid E-talers found this brave creature on the boingboing.net website.

Called Boone, our feline friend sports what owner Ray Frenden calls a "noble fruit helmet". Describing his innovative headwear design, Frenden, who is an illustrator, wrote: "The prototype Feline Protection and Enhancement System is ready for testing! The F.P.E.S. v0.0, known as 'The Zero', was produced in our top secret Illinois facility just last week." Frenden helpfully provides a link to a tutorial for construction of cat fruit helmets. Also, check out the picture of a cross-looking cat wearing a green fruit helmet. Boone's is nicer, however -- we particularly like the linear design Frenden has inscribed on it.

Geek cool

Everyone knows how the meaning of words changes with usage -- particularly when kids are involved, right? At the risk of being un-PC, think of 'gay' -- it once meant 'jolly', then it was used to described a homosexual person and now, in the playground at least, it means 'stupid'. Well, something similar has happened in the tech world.

E-tales and the Oxford Dictionary both think (or thought) nerd and geek meant roughly the same thing -- a studious, techy person who is a bit lacking in the fashion and social skills departments. But, no, the two are subtly different, at least according to one precocious young teen. A nerd is boringly studious, but dresses in a smart, buttoned-up, preppy way sort of style, while a geek is untidy but technologically knowledgeable. But the crucial difference is that the latter is cool, while the former isn't.

Go figure.

What's in a name?

Shakespeare famously said: "What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." Or, alternatively, something that stinks will still niff whatever you choose to call it.

We reckon the British Government should brush up on its Romeo and Juliet (the play from which the quotation is taken and a staple text studied in English schools). The UK Government is currently trying to convince the British public that the unpopular ID card it pushing is not an RFID (radio-frequency ID) card, but a "contactless" or "proximity" card. Like campaigning MP Lynne Jones, we too fail to see the difference between how an RFID-equipped ID card and a "proximity" card work.

UK tech news site The Register has got very excited about all this. Place an RFID-tagged card or passport in the vicinity of a reader and it will read it, as it will a "contactless' or "proximity" card, says the site. The problem is the British public has issues with RFID cards, feeling that they could be used to monitor them as if they were, well, criminals.

The UK newspapers, despite sometimes being technologically challenged, seem to have belatedly cottoned-on to issue too, with, for example, the Daily Mirror saying the cards contain "spy chips" which use radio transmitters, allowing "law-abiding citizens to be tagged like criminals on parole".

This story will run and run -- and continue to smell too.

E-tales is edited by Jo Bennett. Send your tales of wit and woe to etales@computerworld.co.nz

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