E-tales: election blame game

A WEEK OF IT

Election blame game

With an election coming up, E-tales has been weighing up the pros and cons regarding which party would be best for telecomms. Labour has a spotty reputation to say the least — it ushered in the deregulated market way back in the ’80s. And it sold Telecom in 1990, shortly before it lost that year’s election to National. Since returning to government in 1999, Labour may have recently introduced competition into the market, to users’ benefit, by splitting Telecom into three divisions, but this has been a hell of a long time coming.

However, National’s reputation is no shining ornament either when it comes to telco policy. National’s telco spokesman, Maurice Williamson, was communications minister from 1990 to 1999, during which time he manfully resisted pleas to regulate for competition.

So, the two parties blaming each other for the present telco mess is a bit rich. Come on chaps — and chapesses — get real. The blame game is not a vote-winner or very true.

Your latte, sir?

Former Aussie foreign minister Alexander Downer didn’t look as if he was attending the Tel.Con 9 telecommunications conference held at the Hyatt, in Auckland last week. Dressed casually in green and gold trakkies in the house bar, Downer appeared to be in holiday mode. Well, he was until the waitress arrived and dumped several lattes across his table and his lap. Downer was clearly surprised, but handled the situation well. He also dealt with some gentle ribbing from a couple of Alcatel Lucent executives hanging at the next table before wiping himself down and heading for his room.

Snail mail for real

And now for something a bit less serious: the New Scientist reports that “boredom researchers” at a UK university think we should slow down online. So, rather than engaging in rapid-fire emailing — as you do — we should send emails by snail-mail — literally.

They’ve currently got three snails — Cecil, Austin and Muriel — whipping their way across a tank, at a speedy 0.03km an hour, ferrying emails. These are picked up when they reach the other side of the tank, courtesy of the RFID chips they’re equipped with (there is an electronic reader installed there).

The researchers launched “the world’s first webmail service to use live snails” on June 17, at Bournemouth University’s Coyne lecture theatre. Over the coming weeks, they plan to refine the snails’ work in preparation for the ‘Slow Art’ Gallery Exhibition, to be held in Los Angeles, from August 11- 15, 2008, and publish the results on the RealSnailMail Blog.

It sounds like the tech-arts equivalent of the anti-fast food Slow Food movement. To check out this intriguing work, go to: www.boredomresearch.net/

Tom Thumb goes digital

E-tales found this little cutie via Boing Boing, which thinks — weirdly — that our wee silver 256MB thumb-drive man is expressing “wuv”. Well, come-hither lust maybe as he looks like he should be reclining Latin lover-like on a silken bed. Whatever, the sellers are right about him being a conversation-starter.

Banks at it again?

One of our e-talers likes to keep a close watch on what the banks get up to — indeed, he was the man who broke the banks-want-to-pass-the-buck-for-online-stuff-ups-to-consumers story. This led to the Bankers’ Association backing down. After all, how can even the most careful of us doing their banking from the home PC fend off all the internet nasties out there now? And that’s before one starts to discuss how banking is being pushed online because it’s so cheap — for the banks.

But, we digress. Our e-taler tells us that the Bankers’ Association’s new code of conduct — the one updated after the aforementioned kerfuffle — now only makes the customer liable if he/she “knows or believes” their security software is not up-to-date.

Supposing then that a customer knows his internet connection has been interrupted for some hours and suspects an automatic security update has been missed — the customer “believes” his software is not current. This is then confirmed when he suffers an internet banking loss. However, the online fix was cancelled, so the customer’s software was as up-to-date as possible, and the loss was nothing to do with a bug; it was actually the bank’s fault. Nevertheless, the bank disclaims liability because the customer “believed” his software was not up-to-date.

Tricky one that. Ah well, the mediators and ombudsmen have to make their money somehow.

• This is just a mischievous scenario, but a few weeks ago Britons twigged that the British Bankers’ Association had quietly changed its code of conduct, back in March, and shifted liability for internet fraud losses to consumers. Opposition is emerging, encouraged by the NZ campaign our e-taler was responsible for.

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