E-tales: Sparkling Halloween

Yup, that's real (probably blood) diamonds and a real human skull too

Westpac on the money

The recent long holiday weekend was a chance to kick back, relax… and think about planning Christmas spending — some of us like to think ahead. And some banks are right there, too. Watching a bit of television, E-tales’ editor spotted a very smart Westpac advert for its “promise to pay” guarantee for online banking customers.

Those of you with good memories will recall that Computerworld blew the whistle some months back on local banks’ plans to shift responsibility for online banking fraud onto the victims, via a new online banking code. Our action forced a quick rethink, but Westpac is still the only local bank to introduce an “Online Banking Guarantee”, which promises customers “they will never be left out of pocket in the unlikely event they are victim of online fraud.”

Feel-good glam

Also perhaps with Christmas in mind, Nokia has joined forces again with uber-frilly Kiwi fashion designer Trelise Cooper, to launch a limited edition mobile phone in “champagne” (what colour’s that? Brassy grey metal, but, hey, the phone’s cute) with a feel-good factor: $20 from every one sold will go to the Breast Cancer Research Trust. The phones also come with a pretty phone-purse designed by the frilly one.

The only trouble is at $249 its quite it bit more than the black version, which can be had for $209.

Not all Vista users are created equal

Here’s a story to further warm the already raging hearts of those of you struggling with the fully-featured Vista, which doesn’t always… errr work. The Dutch consumer association Consumentenbond has called for a boycott of Vista, after Microsoft refused to give users having trouble with the much-hyped software free copies of Windows XP.

This e-taler can confirm that the problems 5,000-plus Dutch users are having — with system crashes, and printers and other hardware not working — are a problem here, too. The Dutch say the software “is just not ready”, according to online news site The Register. Consumentenbond is incensed that while businesses can get free XP other users can’t.

Sparkling Halloween

It’s Halloween this coming weekend, so E-tales, keen to be topical, went hunting online for novel Halloween ideas and found this seriously weird pumpkin, which references a work by the seriously weird British conceptual artist, Damien Hirst. (Cut-up cows, sheep, sharks, etcetera, preserved in formaldehyde.) This clever silver-sprayed, diamond (rhinestone) encrusted pumpkin references Hirst’s latest shocker: a £50 million diamond-encrusted human skull. Yup, that’s real (probably blood) diamonds and a real human skull too. Mind you, Hirst has yet to find someone to stump up 50 million smackers for it. But it certainly puts a new slant on the old adage: diamonds are forever.

Let me read your mind

It’s not really Microsoft-bagging week here at E-tales headquarters, it’s just that for some strange reason stories often come in pairs, or triplets even. Anyway, this is spooky story for the conspiracy theorists out there: the Redmond boys want to read your mind.

New Scientist reports that Microsoft has submitted a mind-reading patent application to the US Patent and Trademark Office because it feels getting straight to the brain — rather than doing the usual old thing of asking questions — is the best way to study how homo sapiens interact with digital life.

The way to do this is via electroencephalograms (EEGs), which record brain signals. So far, so normal (kinda). The patent bit concerns the teasing apart all the incidental information such as blinking etcetera that our brains also record to get at the useful cognitive stuff. And the big idea behind all this: to design better user interfaces.

What’s wrong with a bit of in-house creativity and focus groups to tell you which of your ideas sing and which stink, E-tales asks?

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