Press, don’t pound

A week of IT

Press, don’t pound

Some voicemail messages take a distinctly global village approach to communications — as long as you speak Standard American, that is. E-tales came across an outstanding example of this emerging genre last week, courtesy of a Wellington company. An earnest female voice told us (with an American accent, of course) that, “The person at extension eight … two … six … five … is unavailable.”

“Please leave your message after the tone,” she continued. “When done, hang-up or press the pound key.


Does no-one record messages using the local accent and important cultural nuances of the country concerned any more?

Bumf-tiously yours …

Speaking of rubbishy approaches to doing business, a Wellington computer chap regaled one of our staff with his tale of getting a phone line installed. Nowadays this involves reading, and signing, “a load of gumff [we feel it should have two fs like its progenitor ‘guff’] from the telco.”

Gumff is a great word, combining as it does the vacuity of “guff” with the toilet-roll appeal of “bumf” and the adhesive qualities of “gum”. Probably just a slip of the tongue, but it definitely has potential.

Robot finds Crusoe’s treasure

Now this is the Christmas toy to have! Move over metal detectors, here comes Little Arthur, the robot treasure hunter.

Continuing with our pirate theme of previous weeks (it wasn’t planned), Arthur the robot — or Arturito as he is known in Chile from where he hails — has apparently unearthed a literal literary treasure on the very island on which Robinson Crusoe was marooned.

There was a real-life Crusoe — Alexander Selkirk — whose story inspired Daniel Defoe to write his island tale in 1729. The island is 660 kilometres off the coast of Chile. A Chilean company, Wagner Technologies, says their robot, Arthur, has detected treasure 15 metres below ground on the island and plans to start excavating shortly. Legend has it that Spanish sailor Juan Esteban Ubilla-Echeverria buried fabulous treasure there in 1715, writes New Scientist magazine.

Arthur, meanwhile, has already proved his worth by helping the Chilean police find buried weapons using his ground-penetrating radar (georadar), which finds buried objects by emitting microwave frequency electromagnetic radiation.

Even if Arthur doesn’t find any treasure he may have a promising future as a beachcomber’s mate.

Storm warning

Not surprisingly, we get a lot of US media releases. These often come with lengthy disclaimers, such as: “These forward-looking statements …” followed by a list of factors that may affect the forecasts of growth, etcetera.

A recent release from Cognos came with just such a disclaimer. This included “continued BI market consolidation and other competitive changes in the BI market,” blah, blah, blah. And then … “the impact of Hurricane Katrina on the overall economic condition of North America.”

That one must have added pretty recently. No doubt the next disclaimer will include Hurricane Rita.

Big hugs all round

E-tales would like to award its Sensitive Employer of the Month prize to EDS for “separating from the company” 106 of its employees who are, or rather were, based in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Brisbane. This is despite its having difficulty filling a number of vacancies in Canberra.

EDS denies the decision had anything to do with the intrusion of unions into its hallowed workplace and described its negotiations with said as a learning opportunity. (See Computerworld, 26 September 2005, page four, for full story.)

E=mc²: the fights, the joys

Having recently celebrated the centenary of Einstein’s theory of relativity, E-tales came across a biography of the famous equation which gives an interesting take on the science and the scientists involved.

David Bodanis’s E=mc²: A Biography of the World’s Most Famous Equation tells the no-holds-barred story of the vindictive fights, oversights and plain pettiness — not to mention spectacular sexism — that attended the discoveries that led, down the centuries, to Einstein’s famous equation.

It shows how all-too-human even brilliant scientists can be but also how intellectually exciting is all was — and still is, really. It also shows just how rebellious many scientists are. No wonder the Catholic Church locked up Galileo. It’s not only biologists who have to deal with religious tunnel-vision.

E-tales would love to hear about your favourite equations.

Todgerless Crazy Frog squashed

E-tales has been following the antics of Crazy Frog, who has been gracing our TV screens of late, with interest.

Yup, he is a marketing gimmick, but kind of endearing in an irritating sort of way. Which is obviously the idea and also why he has found himself being shunted into the adult time zone on British TV, following an order from the UK Advertising Standards Authority banning early appearances to protect the kids.

British Parents have complained to the ASA about their kids downloading the froggy mobile ringtones at great cost — to their parents’ wallets.

Still, this is not as bad as what happened to the Crazy Frog when he crossed the Big Ditch to the US and lost his todger in the process.

When he joined the US iTunes roster in July it was only on the condition that he lost the little guy.

However, the puritans in the Land of the Flood seem not to have noticed that, although todgerless, Crazy Frog US-style reclines on a great big rocket.

E-tales is edited by Jo Bennett. Send your tales of wit and woe to

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