Return of the Toybox

Serious testing going on in the air conditioning cupboard

The Toybox is back

So there we were, in the back of E-tales HQ, and what did we find but a toybox. And not just any toybox, The Toybox. Full of toys.

First out of the box came “the coolest cans in the world” and best of all (tears to the eyes) they’re Kiwi-made. Well, Kiwi thought of, at any rate.

Noise cancellation giant Phitek has produced its own headphones for the weary traveller, the Blackbox M14, which retail for $379.

We tested the cans extensively in our flight simulator (the air conditioning cupboard) and first reports are excellent.

“What did you say?” cried Toybox test subject Ulrika, who will produce a more detailed look at the ears when she returns from her Christmas holidays in Sweden. Don’t say we don’t push the boat out on our reviews here in the Toybox.

The phones are gorgeous to look at, as comfortable as squashing two giant marshmallows on your ears (only less sticky) and work seriously well. They come in a travel case and have a set of adapters so those tricky airlines can’t stop you stealing their music. Ah, bliss.

Recommended for long haul flights, closed-door meetings and air conditioning cupboards everywhere.

• If you have any baubles, trinkets, gizmos, doodads, gewgaws, devices, contraptions or anything that’s just plain cool and you want us to drool over it, send us an email to and we’ll send you our courier address.

If the cap fits...

E-government supremo Laurence Millar, at a “Government Insights” seminar earlier this year, produced a slide he said illustrated the relationship of e-government to the broader Digital Strategy and the goals of the State Services Commission, such as “networked government”.

The slide showed the simple outlines of three dangerously archetypal symbols; the triangle, the square and the circle. These were advanced as signifying the way “government changes as the people change”.

As for which symbol stands for what, the SSC declined to comment. The question is not significant, says spokesman Jason Ryan; it is the lesson of Millar’s words that should be taken into account.

But the geometrical figures are hard to ignore, since every report that government’s ICT mavens produce is full of them. Best known is the “communication, confidence, content” triangle of the Digital Strategy.

Our E-Taler at the conference has since been having an occasional web nosy into the theme of circles, triangles and squares.and recently discovered the attached illustration: From an alchemical treatise called “Atalanta Fugiens” by Michael Meier (1566-1622), a prescient illustration of a lecture on “people-centred” e-government.

Millar has the requisite distinguished beard, but we feel his air of wisdom night be enhanced by a sage’s hat.

Couched in mystery

A fervid Trade Me fan and user was heard to mutter recently that Trade Me is “great for buying and selling anything — except couches”. It transpired that he didn’t get the price he wanted for a rather antiquated sofa that he was trying to hawk on the site. Having got numerous bargains on Trade Me for other goods, he just can’t figure out why couches are the exception. Could it be that people still prefer to test couches by sitting on them before buying? Or is Trade Me so flooded with couches for sale that prices have been driven down?

The most irritating game in the world

Here at E-tales HQ, we like to kick back and play the odd online game.

Not Day of Defeat or World of Warcraft for us, however. Instead, we prefer the annoying games found at, a French-language site (which adds its own hilarity) that includes all manner of nasty, tricky, fiendish and awkward Flash-based games.

Our favourite is the “Irritating game (which uses 100% of your brain)”. Our record is 22 seconds — how well do you do? Highly recommended.


A challenge in designing automated help systems with voice recognition is to account for all the different ways a customer might phrase the same response, said Alan Brooks of vendor Genesys at a recent discussion of the technology. There are, for example, scores of different ways of saying “yes” or “okay”.

An Australian journalist interjected to tell the meeting there is one local taxi company whose system is programmed to understand the synonym “no wuckin’ furries”.

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