E-tales: Tales from the skullery

Instructions on how to make sweet skulls

Sun goes fishing

Sun has plans to announce a series of appliances under its open source FishWorks (fully integrated software and hardware) brand. They’re all code-name-related to FishWorks, but each is in Japanese. The translations range from “sardine” to “fatty tuna”. Now, there’s a marketing name to catch the eye.

How big?

Sign of the times: E-taler receives an email promoting a new version of a disk defragmenter. It has an attached file which is 51KB in size. He muses: once upon a time, and not very long ago at that, when developers cared about "tight code", such a file would likely have been a free, limited-time review copy of the software, but now… it's probably not.

He was right, of course. The file was just the product announcement, in Microsoft Word — no illustrations, not even a logo, just 436 words of elegantly formatted text. That’s close to 120 bytes per word. How do they do it?

Not so private Facebook

Is nothing sacred? Not if it’s online, it isn’t. One of our colleagues down here at E-tales headquarters has come over all queasy about the privacy implications of Microsoft’s US$240 million (NZ$312 million) buy of a 1.6% stake in social networking site Facebook. I mean, the Redmond giant is going to put up ads on Facebook, which, without even looking at the small print, must poke into the privacy of the site’s 50 million users. Ask yourself: what would be the point if that advertising wasn’t targeted in a similar way to Google’s?

It’s all getting a bit murky, we think.

Tales from the skullery

Now, we know Halloween has passed, but we couldn’t resist this image — plus instructions on how to make’ em — from one of our favourite websites, makezine.com. They’re sugar skulls and they make them for the Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) in Mexico, which is celebrated on November 1 (All Saints’ Day) and November 2 (All Souls’ Day). Check out the site’s blog for instructions on how to make the sweet skulls. Apparently, they also come in chocolate in Mexico. Mexicans view death not as an end but as the start of something new and, therefore, as a cause for celebration.

Burger deal-breaker

A clause in a recent Request for Proposal, for a software project from the Ministry of Health, caught the eye of one of our E-talers:

“Health promoting and inclusive behaviour: it is important that you promote good health… This includes…” and it goes on to advocate, among other things, that bidders have a smoke-free workplace and “a nutrition policy”.

Now, it’s understandable that the ministry would want to seize all opportunities to promote good health, but suppose two bids of equal merit are received — except one bidder serves greasy cafeteria hamburgers and the other leans towards fresh vegetables and salads. Horrors, it might even stop developers consuming pizza on the premises (yeah, right!)

But suppose this clause, which seems to be quite new, was a contract tie-breaker, and the losing party took the ministry to court — would it stand up legally?

Sick Tech Syndrome

Erudite British comic actor Stephen Fry has gone all digital and is now the UK Guardian’s latest tech columnist — despite being “distressingly untechnical”.

E-tales enjoyed his first effort, especially his observation that there is such a thing as “sick hand-held device syndrome”. This is the tech equivalent of sick building syndrome and involves grey, clunky devices with fiddly buttons, which often feature “sickenly stupid nested menus” too. Beauty, Fry insists, is not a nice add-on. Beautiful devices make us smile, stroke, fondle, gurgle, coo…

Ooooh, so sexy, Stephen, but his point is a good one: stylish devices also function superbly.

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