Not a nine to fiver

A week of IT

A Computerworld staffer returns Australian PR person's phone call at 5.15pm NZ time. PR person isn't there, but the colleague who takes the message asks, in a surprised tone of voice, "Isn't it after 5pm in New Zealand?" Yes, indeed, and, shock horror, this Computerworld staffer was still in the office. Note to Australians who habitually knock off at 5pm: even New Zealanders do sometimes work "late".

Now everyone knows

Daily newspapers made much last week of figures showing (surprise!) that New Zealand has one of the lowest uptake rates for broadband (if you can call it that) in the OECD and higher mobile phone charges than every other country apart from Poland. Discussing those same figures early last month (where was the daily press?), Communications Minister Paul Swain undertoook to push for legislative amendments to improve real competition.

Meanwhile real competition among airlines (there are 12 players in the region) might soon produce $1 airfares across the Tasman, travel industry commentators suggest. At that rate, it might be cheaper to put non-time-sensitive data on removable storage and send a staffer off to Oz carrying it as hand baggage. Cram in enough and it might even be quicker in aggregate bytes/sec. (Customs officer: "Did you pack your own unweighted mobile basket, madam?")

Still, now "the people" — as opposed to "the ICT people" — have been woken up to the disparity, we might get more pressure and quicker action.

Also illuminating was an inside column in the same issue of Wellington's Dominion Post as the front page piece on the supposedly "secret" telecomms report. Columnist Bernard Hickey, contrasting New Zealand's not-really-broadband with the 2Mbit/s basic service he had been used to in Singapore, apologised to his readers for appearing a "geek" with his heavy internet use.

Perhaps it's not just a matter of bandwidth and cost; maybe broadband and the internet has a bit of an "image problem" among Kiwis.

Of Earls, bugs and GraceHoppers

We're often very sceptical about Americans' respect for their British heritage and the English language, so it came as a matter of some relief to one Kiwi journalist at the BMC Forum that the company's CEO, Bob Beauchamp, did pronounce his name the "proper" way, as "Beecham".

He was unaware of the Katherine Mansfield connection, but told us how back in the 15th century the English Beauchamps, through the mischance of begetting daughters, not sons, lost the earldom of Warwick. If things had worked out differently, he said, "I might not have been doing what I am today."

Perhaps it's just as well the software boss is not an aristocrat,, since according to Shakespeare in Henry VI, part III, "Warwick was a bug" (Act V, Scene II). Literally it means a goblin, but the playwright and his character King Edward IV seem to have meant it in a very computerish sense: the Earl was an obstacle to a plan, who had to be eliminated. The coining of the computer usage is usually credited to US Navy computer pioneer Commander Grace Hopper, finding moths stuck to a faulty circuit board; but Will may have been looking over her shoulder. Inventor Thomas Edison is a rival claimant to the modern sense of "a fault in machinery".

Where did we put that piece of paper?

"Of the money we spent on the Y2K problem, 70% was spent simply identifying what we had. We listed it all, then we let it go. Most IT departments haven't kept those records updated. Now we're going to have to find it all again for Sarbanes-Oxley." UK commentator Malcom Fry identifies another "business/IT alignment" problem at the recent BMC Software Forum in Sydney.

Managing assets

A speaker at a recent conference gave a talk on asset management. At the end of his talk, the MC thanked him and told him he'd "managed to be a real asset". We say an MC who manages to make asset management funny is an asset to any conference.

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