E-tales: Magnetic attraction

'Sixth sense finger magnet' to electro-magnetically diagnose a dying hard drive


Interesting insights can sometimes be gained from talking to those who have rubbed shoulders with industry “names”.

Not to belittle the achievements of Dr Brian Carpenter, one-time head of the Internet Engineering Task Force, but one of his claims to fame is that he once worked with Tim Berners-Lee, founder of the World Wide Web. At a recent Wellington meeting, Carpenter reminded people of the clunky internet search tools that existed in the pre-web days, such as WAIS, Archie and Gopher.

Carpenter was using these one day when Berners-Lee walked into the room and said: “Try www”. Carpenter did so and up popped the early text-based version of a web page.

However, Berners-Lee did not utter the three-syllable “abbreviation” which has bedevilled us ever since. Instead, he pronounced the letters as a child learning to read might do: wuh-wuh-wuh. Kinda cute really.

Advanced retrieval?

What about those other acronyms? Our pre-web e-taler can’t recall what Archie stood for, but a search revealed that other internet programs of the time were called Veronica and Jughead, so maybe it was named after a cartoon character. Can any readers shed some light here?

WAIS stood was Wide-Area Information System, and Gopher (go for) is reasonably obvious, but apparently also owes something to being developed at the University of Minnesota, whose hockey team is called the Gophers.


The recent announcements concerning money to beef up NZ’s broadband networks have given us one more for the tautological abbreviation collection — you know, like entering your Personal Identification Number into the Automatic Teller Machine machine. When you abbreviate them, you effectively say the last word twice: ie PIN number, ATM machine.

Next month should see a lot of people applying for Broadband Investment Fund (BIF) funding. You know you’ll find yourself, effectively, referring to “fund-funding”.

Oh Bee-hive!

One of our e-talers had been reading Health and ICT Minister David Cunliffe’s response to the National Party’s suggestion that young doctors be bonded to keep them in the country. While the page was still on his Firefox tabs, a different task saw him having to reboot his system (thank you, Microsoft). On restart, Firefox provided the usual option of reloading the previously opened pages. Our e-taler reloaded and received a puzzling response from Cunliffe’s page.

Now, our e-taler says he could understand an error message that read: “This page is no longer available”. But he got: “Forbidden. You are not authorised to access this page.” Why does the minister suddenly want to keep his statement secret?

To be fair to Cunliffe, there’s probably some deeply technical explanation — or does stuff-up cover it?

Magnetic attraction

You know, there are some seriously weird people out there. E-tales’ editor was checking out Boing Boing Gadgets the other day and — under Top X: Gadgets that go inside you (I’m already feeling squeamish) — came across the “Sixth sense finger magnet”. This involved a Wired journalist letting some guy slice open his finger and insert a tiny magnet — all the better to electro-magnetically diagnose a dying hard drive by feeling “its internally discombobulant rhythm”. Alternatively, one could also sense whether a wire was live without touching it.

Oh well, some geeks are very strange indeed, or maybe the idea is to increase one’s magnetic charms.

Daily Mail in doomsday gaffe

And now to the simply ludicrous… Britain’s Daily Mail newspaper, which has a well-deserved reputation for both paranoia and right-wing looniness, has been caught mistaking a video-game for a “terrifying vision” of al-Qaeda nuking Washington. The FUDsters splashed an image of a charred Washington across the paper, but the image was lifted from Fallout 3, according to tech news site The Register.

Ah well, it seems attitudes haven’t changed much since the Daily Heil, as it is sometimes called, supported British Fascist Oswald Mosley and the Nazi Party back in the 1930s. Fear is still the name of the game. Now, the truly cynical might wonder if the paper was actually hoodwinked at all.

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