Hoochie coochie man

A week of IT

Hoochie coochie man

While iPoddites wait impatiently for any sign of a local iTunes Music Store, there are some fine tracks to be had elsewhere. Two local online music stores, Digirama.co.nz and Amplifier.co.nz, sell downloads at $2 a pop (Amplifier specialises in local tunes). Both stores have easy-to-use websites, although neither has a huge selection.

For something a bit different, check out the brilliant Smithsonian Global Sound website, which lets visitors search for music by location, musical instrument or 'culture group'. It includes some absolute gems. Anybody who is interested in music outside the Top 40 will find something to amaze. The selection may not be as large as the Apple or Napster stores, but it’s still pretty impressive (the Americas alone offer 23,000 songs — and anyway, does anybody really need more than 26 Asian banjo tunes?)

Most of the Smithsonian’s songs are priced at US99¢ and can be bought by anyone with a credit card, regardless of location. Best of all, the songs are sold in plain ol’ MP3 form without any digital rights management at all. Bargain!

Recommended: Muddy Waters’ ‘Long Distance Call’ and the country blues of Brownie McGhee.

GPS goes extreme

We know it's nowhere near Christmas but people have birthdays, too, and finding good pressies is always hard — especially for nerds. And, especially if the aim is to drag them away from the computer — don't think for a minute that the computer chair is better than the couch-in-front-of-the TV, both are anti-social and anti-buff. So, imagine how pleased E-tales was to come across the latest, outdoor computer pursuit: fresh air computing. It's called geocaching. Basically, an updated treasure hunt, geocaching combines nerdiness with exercise, and takes places outside the computer den where the birdies sing. In its more extreme form, it is even capable of buffing up the outdoors-challenged.

The game involves a hidden cache, the coordinates for which are posted on the web, then its just a case of getting out the GPS and tracking down the treasure, which, in some cases, has been hidden on a mountain slope or underwater; the latter requires a scuba dive to reach it. E-tales checked out the new craze's website and found New Zealand is one of the 200 countries to have taken up this hi-tech sport. For more on this fascinating new time-waster for the outdoors-challenged check out the “No More Socks” gift guide on the New Scientist's website.

Cyberpunk violence hits streets

Three decades after mould-breaking sci-fi author William Gibson introduced us to the world of cyberpunk (coining the phrase 'cyberspace' in the process) with Neuromancer, this cyberworld seems to be taking violent flesh. Two recent news stories tell a chilling tale of technology colliding with the real world. One, reported in the Sydney Morning Herald concerns a Shanghai online game player, Qui Chengwei, who stabbed a rival to death for selling the cyber-sword he used in the popular online game Legend of Mir 3. Qui had reported the theft to the police, but they could do nothing because there are no laws in China covering cybertheft — dead rival Zhu Caoyuan had sold the sword for 7,200 yuan (NZ$1,200).

There is a brisk trade in virtual weapons and more these days. Indeed, last December Australian games player David Storey was reported as buying a virtual island for A$35,000 (NZ$38,000). The beautiful, unspoilt island — except for an abandoned castle — only exists in the computer game Project Entropia.

In another recent story, a Malaysian businessman lost a finger to thieves impatient to relieve him of his Mercedes car. The carjackers got tetchy with the car's fingerprint security system when the Merc wouldn't start without the owner tagging along. To expedite matters the thieves chopped off the end of the unfortunate chap's index finger with a machete so they didn't have to bring hijack him with the car.

Read very, very carefully

Yup, it came around once again on the first of the month — April Fool's Day. For the some of best April First pranks around the world check out the website devoted to them. There's the early case (1957) of the bumper Swiss spaghetti harvest, thanks to the elimination of the spaghetti weevil, which comes courtesy of the BBC's Panorama. Then there's National Public Radio's apoplexy-causing report in 1992 about Richard Nixon running for president again, saying: "I didn't do anything wrong and I won't do it again". You'd think that would tipped listeners off, wouldn't you, but apparently it didn't and the radio station was deluged with visceral calls from Nixon haters.

We like Discover magazine's foolish little foray concerning a newly-discovered animal resident in Antartica: the hotheaded naked ice borer. Apparently, this little hottie has a burning hot head which it uses to burrow under the ice and hunt down penguins. Sounds a bit like someone's burning hot fantasy to us. Bet that was what readers thought, too — the story generated the biggest mailbag ever inspired by a Discover story.

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

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