The fair ladies of tech

When seeking to recruit women programmers at US college campuses IBM used to advertise for "My Fair Ladies"

Memories are made of this

Telecom boss Theresa Gattung, who has the odd share in a racehorse, was enjoying a day out at the Auckland Cup this month, E-tales is reliably informed. She was seen in discussion with a former CEO of Wang New Zealand. “Whatever happened to Wang?” she asked. “You bought the bloody thing,” was the acerbic reply. Wang, of course, was rebranded as Gen-i, which Telecom subsequently bought to boost its IT services.

Professionally paranoid

Auckland University IT security researcher Peter Gutmann (he who took on Microsoft over its Vista digital rights management in December) has redeveloped his homepage. He now describes himself as “Professional Paranoid” and the page ends with a unique disclaimer: Any opinions expressed on this page are not in fact mine but were forced on me at gunpoint by the University of Auckland.

The fair ladies of tech

E-tales was amused to read about Big Blue’s sweetly old-fashioned recruitment practices back in the 1950s. When seeking to recruit women programmers at US college campuses it used to advertise for “My Fair Ladies”. So said Frances E Allen, when accepting the Turing Award recently. It’s the first time the prestigious prize, which is worth US$100,000 (NZ$147,000), had been won by a woman in its 40-year history. Allen was wooed by IBM and went on to wortk on optimising compilers. She said it was “high time” a woman won the prize. Now retired, she is involved in programmes that encourage young women to study computer science.

Clapping with the enemy

Lawyer Peter Dengate Thrush was caught “channelling” Dame Edna Everage while chairing an InternetNZ workshop panel recently. The workshop featured an address from music and video industry representative Andy Williams. There was a polite ripple of applause following the chap’s speech which put what is not exactly the most popular viewpoint around, as far as the tech industry is concerned.

“But why not?” exclaimed a surprised Dengate Thrush. Then, quoting the Grande Dame sotto voce, added: “Let’s give him the clap he so richly deserves.”

We should add that he was a scrupulously impartial chairman.

Dell’s green day

It’s not too often E-tales gives a PC-maker a pat on the back, but we got an email from Dell about our recent E-tale (26 February, 2007) asking why Dell’s free recycling service for dead Dells doesn’t extend to at least our two other big cities, Auckland and Christchurch. Well, Dell reckons it’s still a very green boy and, we must say, it is certainly making good efforts. It says if you have a dead PC and are buying a new Dell it will recycle the old one for you, if you live in one of the three big cities. The company also offers a paid recycling service, which costs $36 and $23, respectively, for dead desktops or lappies to be picked up and recycled by Dell.

Lost in translation

A jet-lagged e-taler found it harder than usual to stay awake during a Hewlett-Packard event in Australia recently. Instead of using simultaneous translation, HP relied on the manual approach. This meant a Korean customer read out Powerpoint slides in ... Korean, which was then translated into English by another person. Then, the English translation was turned into mandarin. Questions were handled in a similar albeit inverse fashion. Interesting approach for a company selling efficiencies.

Things humankind was not meant to know

A little off the subject of technology, there are some surprising provisions in the current Copyright Act (1994). A librarian is officially not allowed to provide an inquirer with copies of more than one article from the same periodical “on the same occasion” unless they deal with “the same subject matter” [Section 52(2)(b)].

That leaves us wondering what one “occasion” is in this context. Is it enough to leave the library and walk round the block between two queries, or do they have to be made on different days?

And what is “the same subject matter”? One E-Taler cited a recent visit when he collected material on “Pygmalion” (the Greek legend and George Bernard Shaw’s play) and “Frankenstein”, as well as part of a management textbook on mentoring.

All on the subject of creating “new” people, he says, and handling disappointment and crises when they don’t turn out the way you expected. He envisaged having to argue his rights with a librarian should the first two, at least, turn up in the same literary journal.

But isn’t this all outmoded now photocopiers are provided in many libraries for unsupervised public access? No, we were sternly told by a former librarian; the terms and conditions of copying are spelt out on a notice pasted on the photocopier, and you’re expected to read it.

Ooops. Sorry Ma’am

Bandwidth to burn

An office worker asks a colleague: “have you got any bandwidth at the moment?”. The colleague checks his internet connection and answers in the affirmative, before realising his co-worker was using the colloquial sense it has acquired and simply asking if he had any spare time.

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