E-tales: Balls to bottles

TelstraClear chief executive Rosemary Howard was in good form at the Telecommunications and ICT Summit put on last week by Conferenz.

TelstraClear chief executive Rosemary Howard was in good form at the Telecommunications and ICT Summit put on last week by Conferenz.

At a panel discussion at which she was the only woman, she introduced her speaking slot by recounting how she'd read an article in the paper about research that suggested mobile phone use reduced male fertility. That might explain why, in New Zealand "we've lost our balls", she said, which generated laughter from the floor. Presumably it was a reference to the decision not to unbundle the local loop.

Later in the panel discussion, Telecom government relations manager Bruce Parkes said there was no stopping the trend towards convergence, because "it's too late to put the genie back in the bottle". That also raised some laughs. Funnily enough Computerworld ran a very similar headline just a few weeks ago.

Telecom strikes thrice

A Computerworld staffer got a nice information pack about Telecom's coming EV-DO third generation mobile phone network at a briefing last week. When he got back to the office, waiting in his cubby hole was -- another copy of the very same information pack. He'd already received the contents of two information packs via email, which brought the number of instances of receiving it to three. We wondered whether sending it out three times an attempt by Telecom to emphasise that it's a 3G network?

Everyone's a winner

We received an email on the Saturday after the Computerworld awards dinner at the Aotea Centre just over a week ago.

"It was a great night, well organised and a lot of fun. In fact it was so much fun that while admiring one of the winner's trophy, myself and a colleague had the terribly funny idea of getting our photo taken with it. So after fibbing a bit to the photographer we did exactly that. Now that the evening's over, I feel like a bit of an idiot about the whole thing and was hoping that you would quietly delete the evidence and help me forget about the whole sorry episode."

Our "winner" goes on to how to recognise himself and his mate in very unflattering terms and signs off "Yours very sheepishly".

No worries. A good time seemed to be had by all, including the runners-up.

Brass bans

During an interval between speeches at InternetNZ's recent anti-spam workshop, the table-neighbour of one of our staffers handed him a business card. "I represent a million women," she said, going on to explain that women were likely to feel particularly vulnerable to spam and other uninvited nasties, given the intrusive sexual nature of some of the messages and that they are less likely than men to be computer-literate or to know someone who is.

Our man glanced at the card, which read "Brass Bands Association of New Zealand Inc". Visions of a million-strong brigade of female players of everything from the piccolo trumpet to the sousaphone (descending, perhaps, on a spammer's back garden to play fortissimo in the early morning) were quickly dispelled. Pauline Edwards pointed out that, while general manager of that (much smaller) association, she was at the workshop representing the National Council of Women. The Brass Bands site is here. The organisation's newsletter is, of course, called The Mouthpiece.

Flash tankers

We tried to get to see the latest 42 Below Flash ads at www.42below.co.nz, but the site was jammed with visitors for days. Pity, as they do have clever ads, these people, though they need no help from the brass banders -- they really know how to blow their own trumpets. (According to writersblock.ca, the Canadian web mag for the writing trade, blowing one's own trumpet -- horn seems to be more common in North America -- dates back to at least 1576 and probably originates in medieval times, when heralds blew trumpets to announce the arrival of the king. "Of course, any merchant or other commoner who wanted to announce his arrival had to blow his own horn.")

Ale-ing, badly

But to get back to booze, here's one for those late night workers who slip out for an ale or three at lunchtime. Keep the drunk upright here. "Hier gehts weiter zur website -– aber erst nach dem Spiel …" We managed 33m without gasping for a drink.

The largest organ

In-Sourced.com says Microsoft has patented a new kind of network -- human skin. US Patent No 6,754, 472 is a "method and apparatus for transmitting power and data using the human body". The idea is to link together multiple devices, like the speakers for watches, a PDA and a radio, connected by skin.

They could be powered from a single power source strapped to the skin via electrodes, with power supply, data and audio signals working at different frequencies, according to the patent abstract.

"The natural salinity of the human body makes it an excellent conductor of electrical current. PAN technology [personal area network -- ie your body] takes advantage of this conductivity by creating an external electric field that passes an incredibly tiny current through the body, over which data is carried. The current used is one-billionth of an amp (one nanoamp), which is lower than the natural currents already in the body. In fact, the electrical field created by running a comb through hair is more than 1000 times greater than that being used by PAN technology."

Mob(ile) justice

A piece in the NY Times about cellphone users on public transport got a lot of readers writing in (free registration is required to access the article). Some suggested serious and sometimes violent actions for loud users of mobiles. "Give train conductors guns. If a cell-yeller acts up in a Quiet Car [a prescribed cellphone-free area] (or any car), the conductor is permitted to confiscate his/her cellphone. If the passenger refuses to hand it over, the conductor may shoot him/her, and then redial the last number to inform the person on the other end that the caller will not be getting back to the office anytime soon."

Others suggested parroting the loud speaker at the same volume or banning cellphone use outright on public transport. Another wrote mournfully: "The sense of decent privacy in public places has been lost. There used to be a decorum and an expected behaviour associated with public places. This is/was essential because it permitted us to sanely coexist, by mostly unwritten rules."

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