Nice or nasty

A week of IT

Who's nice or nasty?

E-tales has come across a cute website. A bit girls' magazine (not girly!), it features a "How nice are you?" quiz. We couldn't resist. We're not naming any names, but here at E-tales we have a 46-percenter who, apparently, is only nice when being watched; a 50-percenter who likes his own way but is cute enough to get away with it; a 62-percenter and three 67-percenters who are, apparently, scarily nice. And then there's our 77-percenter, who is terrifyingly nice.

We plumbed the depths, too, and found we house a couple of 36-percenters as well — both, we note without comment, in our Wellington office. One puts his low score down to sheer grumpiness, while the other tells us he is on a par with Donald Trump. So long as he doesn't mean the hair — surely the most frightening thing about the Trumper's capitalism-at-its-most-obnoxious television programme, The Apprentice.

Harry Potter and the illegal download

It was hardly off the press before the web bootleggers were at it, with a pirated copy of the latest Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, hitting the internet within hours of the book's recent worldwide release. Apparently, the net pirates are a bunch of Russians, but E-tales thinks they've reckoned without the P-principle — the pleasure of paper. A copy of JK Rowling's latest costs just $29.99 at the moment, for which one young reader (and E-taler's offspring) got a thick hardback, all crisp, clean pages and, of course, the enchantment of owning the literary treasure. And that's before she even tasted the joys of curling up in her princess-style bed, heater on full-tilt, devouring a third of the book in an evening. Sure beats being holed up in the messy, chilly rumpus room, squinting at a computer screen.

Hands-off doctoring

It maybe a tired old observation that the uncommunicative become even more tongue-tied when equipped with a computer — they use the PC to shield themselves from real people. But, surely, the shielding has gone too far when GPs get into the game.

According to a recent US survey, relations between some doctors and their patients take a dive when the PC appears on the desk of the empathy-challenged doctor, who then focuses on the computer rather than the patient. Online UK news site The Register reports that the solution is not to ban the desktop PC, but to encourage said doctors to make eye contact with their patients rather than the screen.

So much for the hands-on profession. Maybe it really is time medical schools selected for people skills as well as exam skills. Either that or leave the doctor out of the equation altogether — and browse the web.

Cuddly cockroaches

They may suffer from the yuck factor, but scientists have taken pity on the humble 'roach and created a cockroach buddy — a tiny robot called Insbot. According to the New Scientist, Insbot doesn't mind that its new buddies are at the bottom of the social pecking order. And the roaches return the compliment, possibly to their detriment. Insbot has learned how to mimic his crunchy buddies' behaviour and also secretes "roach-like chemical pheromones" — a refinement included because roaches communicate chemically. Insbot is obviously seen as a quasi-roach by its new friends as it can even lure them out into the light.

Developed by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, with the aim of showing how artificial systems might interact with animals in the future, the worry here is that the first application that comes to mind is a new type of roach-trap.

E-tales is edited by Jo Bennett. Send your tales of wit and woe to etales@computerworld.co.nz

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