Ratty excuse

A week of IT

Ratty excuse

E-tales is delighted to note the BBC has gone straight to the heart of the Telecom outage to ask the question we all fear the most: never mind the Stock Exchange, where's the rat?

Rattus rattus, the common "larger than a mouse but smaller than a pitbull" creature we've all come to know and love, is described by Wikipedia as having "secure" conservation status. Whether the reference is to all rats or Telecom's own cable-testing beast is unclear.

Here at E-tales we feel spoilt for choice with the rat reference. Rats leaving a sinking ship? Too obvious. Rat- faced? Too drunken. Rats and mice network operations? Too mousy.

Still, any creature that can chew through an armoured pipe, multiple layers of rubber reinforcing and plastic insulation to finally get to a glass tube must be congratulated on its perseverence, if not its culinary tastes.

Terminally filthy nails

Another word on those terminally filthy keyboards mentioned in last week's E-tales. The Dominion Post newspaper's resident doc reports that the MRSA superbug doesn't only live on hospital keyboards, but on work keyboards as well. It's a resistant little bugger, too. According to the Echo Lab in Minnesota it can survive for up to six weeks on keyboards. But even more worrying is the news that it can survive under acrylic nails for eight weeks. So, you high-maintenance, low-hygiene level chaps and chapesses beware: get out the nailbrush and the keyboard cleaning wand, and get down and dirty.

And the enterprising among you, how about an improvement on said wimpy little wands that really don't do the job properly. If a 12-year-old Scots schoolboy can invent a device that detects debris as small as a nut, which Glasgow Airport is most interested in, surely we can invent a better cleaning wand.

The boy, Daryn Murray, was inspired to develop his remote-controlled cleaner by the 2000 French Concorde crash, which is thought to have been caused by a metal strip left on the runway puncturing a tyre.

Xtra communication needed

E-tales was amused to note the way Telecom chose to inform its subscribers about the recent problems with the Xtra network. On its website, under network status and the snappy title "unscheduled event products affected: broadband", it lists the affected areas by area code. These were: 03; 04; 06; 07 and 09. The whole country, in fact. Why not say so? Our esteemed carrier really does need to get beyond engineering-speak when it comes to public pronouncements. Nothing fancy is required, just when the whole country is affected — say so. Area affected: New Zealand.

Double horror in the skies

It's an axiom that every new technology has its downside, so it follows that two new technologies together must be doubly annoying. Think about this scenario: you're sitting in a cramped airline seat next to Mr (or Ms) Annoying Technology, who not only has the obligatory laptop but now has wi-fi and Skype, too. How annoying would that be?

Fortunately, the new super-duper, wi-fi-equipped Airbuses will also boast mini-gyms, bars, lap pools and private saunas. Oh yeah? What they will actually boast is 500 more seats, which will also greatly increase the chance of sitting next to Mr Annoying Technology. And don't think wi-fi latency will put him off. Not a chance. "Can you hear me now? What about now? Are you going through a tunnel? Hello?" he'll boom. You know the conversation off by heart by now. Unfortunately.

What sucks, what rocks

At last a way to give voice to one's frustrations over buggy operating systems and, more rarely, those that (in modern parlance) "rock" or "rule". It's the "Operating System Sucks-Rules-O-Meter". It's based on an AltaVista search for each of several operating system. E-tales was unsurprised to discover thet only one OS made the "rocks" category big-time and that was Linux. Mac OS X and VMS rock a little bit, but Windows sucks big-time, although a few people think it rocks, too. Interestingly, even more people think Linux sucks.

The site also lists other Sucks-Rules-O-Meter sites that may be worth checking out. At the very least, checking them out should temporarily relieve that "Am I the only one who is mad" feeling by letting you know that really you really are not alone in your frustrations. The site also lists a number of other "sucks-rocks" sites the OS-frustrated can peruse to temporarily relieve their feelings.

Lastly, a warning for any one (company) tempts to tweak the meter's figures, srom.zgp.org warns such behaviour could do permanent damage to your site's AltaVista standing and could even result in extreme index spammers having their pages excluded from the index.

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

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