Kudos to the career counsellor

A week of IT

Kudos to the career counsellor

There's obviously something very special about Auckland University. A press release from its engineering department describes how a certain civil engineering graduate will take up a new post as Microsoft's chief financial officer on May 9.

Now, we know Chris Liddell studied for his degree at the university, but the man is in his late forties so we're pretty sure he has not gone straight from uni to his new position. You might think otherwise, judging from the university press release, which says: "Microsoft Corporation has appointed University of Auckland engineering graduate Chris Liddell to lead its global finance organisation."

In between graduating and taking up his new job Mr Liddell detoured through Oxford University, where he picked up a Master of Philosophy degree, and, oh yes, Carter Holt Harvey, where he was CEO for some time.

A slow tale

E-tales recently hooked up with chipmaker Intel's Man from Taiwan to talk about WiMax, the emerging broadband wireless standard. In describing WiMax, the Man from Taiwan said WiMax is best thought of as a DSL equivalent. He then naturally inquired: "What are New Zealand DSL speeds like?" E-tales replied: "Two meg down, 128 up."

The Man from Taiwan blinked a bit. "128? Do you mean 1.128 meg?" Clearly, the poor chap has failed to grasp the subtleties of broadband in New Zealand.

"But that makes no sense," he says. "Why would you offer 128kbit/s?" When told this upstream speed is mandated by our government he clearly didn't believe us. We're not sure we believe it ourselves.

Moore's Law lost

Intel justifiably made a big song and dance about the 40th anniversary of Moore's Law recently — but it seems the company nearly lost it. Fortunately, they found it again after offering a US$10,000 reward. The BBC reports that an engineer hailing from the green and leafy southern county of Surrey has saved the day and made himself richer in the process.

David Clarke unearthed, almost literally, the 40-year-old copy of Electronics Magazine in which Gordon Moore first made his predictions. He — and Intel — almost fell victim to an attack of spring cleaning by Dave's wife, however. She had been trying to get home to chuck out his old magazines from underneath the floorboards of their house. They say there's always one hoarder and one neat freak in any marriage. Sadly, hoarding doesn't always pay off quite so handsomely.

One bunch of professional hoarders might be feeling a little more aggrieved. According to the Beeb, the University of Illinois' copy of the magazine went missing after Intel offered its reward. Other libraries quickly took their copies off the shelves and placed them under lock and key.

Moore trivia

Not surprisingly, Intel's PR people have been milking the 40th anniversary of Moore's Law (or observation) for all its worth and have come up with the following observations:

  • In 2004 the semiconductor industry produced more transistors — and at lower cost — than the world produced grains of rice, according to the US Semiconductor Industry Association.
  • Gordon Moore used to estimate that the number of transistors shipped in a year equalled the number of ants in the world, but by 2003 the industry was making about 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 (1018) transistors and each ant would need to carry 100 transistors on its back to keep the analogy accurate.

The new mind destroyers

They may look innocuous, but all those little messages flooding into your computer are mind-killers, say the psych docs at London's King's College Hospital. The British shrinks surveyed over a thousand emailers and found emailing to be more damaging than smoking marijuana, according to a Guardian story.

Emailing made the study participants twice as dozy, lethargic and unable to focus as smoking dope. Their IQs dropped more, too — by 10% as opposed to 5% for dope smokers — as they tried, unsuccessfully, to deal with the"context challenges" posed every time a new email dropped into their inbox.

Then there's the question of manners. Forget the problem of mobile etiquette, 20% of the respondents thought it was okay to break off a meal or a conversation to rush off and check their email. It begs the question how much email is contributing to the divorce rate. At least with dope you get some fun and social interaction while destroying your mind.

Up, up and away!

At E-tales we're suckers for stupid technology — and what could be sillier than combining wireless internet access with the blimp. Airships, long touted as making a comeback, are now being suggested as a great, cheap platform for telecommunications, instead of launching costly satellites that take years to build and, reputedly, only reach orbit about two-thirds of the time. Of course, airships have proven their lack of robustness in the past. We're sure they've sorted that out now.

Actually, this isn't the first time airships have been proposed as floating comms platforms. Former US Secretary of State Alexander Haig set up a company called Sky Station to launch a flotilla of blimps all across North America. Of course, this is the same Haig who famously said the US would happily fight a nuclear war with the Soviets because it would probably take place in Europe and nobody would care if Europe glowed in the dark for a million years.

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

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