Woosh goes the credibility

Go to a technology provider's website and you're likely to find customer testimonials. They can be a great way to promote a product, making a potential buyer feel good about his/her impending decision...

Go to a technology provider's website and you're likely to find customer testimonials. They can be a great way to promote a product, making a potential buyer feel good about his/her impending decision, but browsing the site of Woosh Wireless -- which has had to withdraw from several Probe areas -- we were a bit taken aback to find that one of their reference customers was Anna Friis, public relations consultant.

Friis noted "the benefits of Woosh have proved huge" and that "installing my Woosh modem was child's play". What the reference doesn't tell site visitors is that Woosh is one of Friis' public relations clients -- ie Friis has been distributing media releases and handling journalists' queries about Woosh and charging the company accordingly. Her view of Woosh's products is likely to be quite favourable, we would have thought.

Acting out

Last week's E-tales ran an account of Act Party rural affairs spokesman Garry Eckhoff sending out a press release saying exporters should get a refund because Customs' computers broke down. Says Customs communications manager Janice Rodenburg: "There was no computer system crash; there was a minor system delay. However, we are not aware of any exporter missing a flight or orders delayed as a result. We would welcome Mr Eckhoff or any exporter approaching directly if they have any concerns."

In other words, don't whine to the press -- annoy us directly. And people complain about the accuracy of journalism ...

Unsung hero

Saying "make it one jet airliner and 10 prisoners", at an airport is likely to land you in custody, but even sending those words by text message can attract the attention of the authorities, as UK IT worker and part-time musician Mike Devine discovered recently.

Bristol-based Devine plays in a tribute band which covers songs by 70s/80s rockers The Clash and was discussing arrangements for an upcoming gig with a fellow band member via text message. Discussing the lyrics to Tommy Gun, a Clash song, he sent the words "let's agree about the price and make it one jet airliner and 10 prisoners", a line from the song. Somehow, the message found its way to the police, who tracked Devine and questioned him.

According to The Register, police claim the message went to the wrong recipient, who alerted them, but a staffer at tabloid The Sun, which ran the story, said the incident shows the British authorities are monitoring all vocal and textual mobile traffic. If the "sent to wrong phone" theory is correct, does that mean an intimate message to one's lover going astray could lead to charges of sexual harassment?

Trading lawsuits

Auction site Trade Me is getting more interesting as its community of users starts to pose corporate-level issues for the company. One post the other week asked whether it would be legally acceptable to sell naked pictures of himself as a child "to peedos".

Some Trade Me types were not amused. He subsequently claimed it was the humorous post of his girlfriend and her four "alcotroll" friends, but it raises the question of how an online business copes when its number of users gets so large that it takes an Ebay-size bureaucracy to police it.

Beg, steal or borrow

“English law, following common sense, requires that a thief have an intention of permanently depriving an owner of his property,” said Financial Times columnist John Kay, weighing into the file-swapping debate at the beginning of the month.

The “permanent deprivation” argument was successfully used by a British court to argue a lesser penalty for the person who “borrowed” Goya’s portrait of the Duke of Wellington from the National Gallery (it was shown as being in Dr No’s possession in the eponymous James Bond film). The New Zealand term for temporary theft in respect of motor vehicles -– “conversion [to one’s own use]” -- has interesting resonances in the music-acquisition debate.

Shreking great

What's that saying about success having many parents but failure being an orphan? Shrek 2 is coming, three years after its animated predecessor, crushing box office records in its wake and, like Lord of the Rings, encouraging everyone remotely connected to claim credit. HP, though, did provide computing power for the animation work required for the DreamWorks movie, to be released here this week, and will work more widely with Warner Bros on digitally restoring movies and television films. DreamWorks already uses HP servers but the studio will now access HP’s Utility Rendering Service (URS) on an as-needed basis. As with rivals IBM and Sun, HP has been offering more utility computing services, allowing users to purchase IT resources much in the way they buy utilities such as water or electricity.

Mac frenzy

Speaking of movies, we think we've finally found why every computer in every film ever made features a G5 and PowerBook: the writers use 'em.

Macs can be found all over Hollywood: in editing rooms, in story meetings, in music recording sessions, on set and just about anywhere else that creative types congregate. Whether writers quietly insert "JOHN TYPES INTO IBOOK" into their screenplays is unknown, but the way they talk about their digital Cupertino-ans, they just might.

"To work on something [other than a Mac] would be to marry a woman you don't love," says Terry Rossio, using a comparison normal people might find hyperbolic, or even weird. He and writing partner Ted Elliott can count Pirates of the Caribbean, Aladdin, Men in Black, Shrek and several other big-budget films among their credits. Both can also say they've worked on Macs their entire careers. "If I had to guess why so many screenwriters use Macs," says Elliott, "I'd say it's for the same reason I prefer a Mac: the desktop environment of the Mac OS is simply more beneficial to productivity. Staring [at the screen] is actually a large part of writing." The pair used to employ Final Draft when writing scripts on their G4 PowerBooks, but they recently switched over to Movie Magic Screenwriter "because most studios use the Movie Magic Scheduler software, and it just makes it easier all the way around," according to Elliott.

"I use Macs for the same reason I drive a Mercedes," says another screenwriter. "It may be a bit more expensive, and a Ford Taurus will get you there the same, but I'm a whore for perfection in industrial design, and you can't beat Apple for ease of use and an elegant human interface."

Not every successful screenwriter started his career on the Mac, however. As in every walk of life, you can find plenty of switchers in Hollywood. Up-and-coming screenwriter Carlito Rodriguez observes: "Once they go Mac, they don't go back."

We have to leave them here before we lose all ability to speak.

Good news filter

Last Tuesday Computerworld received a press release from Computer Associates' public relations firm announcing that Australia-New Zealand managing director John Ruthven had been promoted to the position of senior vice-president, Asia-Pacific. Good on him, we say, but we were a bit surprised not to get the press release announcing that former global chief executive Sanjay Kumar, recently demoted to chief software architect, has left CA. That one must have got lost somewhere between the PR firm's systems and ours.

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