Blue screen of cash

Gerry Eckhoff, who is apparently the Act Party's rural affairs spokesman, fired out a press release when the Customs Department's computers crashed.

Gerry Eckhoff, who is apparently the Act Party's rural affairs spokesman, fired out a press release when the Customs Department's computers crashed. Customs Minister Rick Barker should ensure all exporters who lost money as a result should get compensation, he thundered. (That's what politicians do.)

"Exporters need certification to ensure entry into overseas markets, but with the computer system down, no certification was possible. This resulted in exporters losing space on aircrafts," Eckhoff says, inventing a new plural noun.

"Airfreight is booked well in advance to ensure space," he goes on. "But if that space is lost, it cannot be automatically re-allocated on the next flight, meaning that many export orders have been delayed. Inability to provide a service does not bode well for a service industry. Mr Barker's Border Security Bill forces exporters to pay customs for the certification process. It is incumbent upon the ministry to perform its tasks."

Imagine if every time a government department computer went down, taxpayers got a rebate. Imagine that.

Digital delusions

Word has it that back when cellphones were first coming into use in New Zealand, some politicians charged with developing a regulatory regime for spectrum allocation and cell site location thought the newfangled devices were called "digital cellphones" because you used your fingers to push the buttons. But that could just be an urban myth from the streets around Parliament ...

Putting the seize in CRM

Manukau City Council has invented a new twist on CRM. Because it's a council and thus not commercially driven like most organisations that use CRM systems, it has dubbed its PeopleSoft CRM system CCCRM, or citizen, customer and community relationship management. Could this be the beginning of a trend towards extending the number of letters in such terms for different industries? Imagine EEERP, or enterprise, electricity and energy resource planning, for the power generation industry, or SSSCM, supply, sucrose and sweetness chain management, for the sugarcane industry?

Patent watch

EHarmony.com was awarded a patent this month for its matchmaking formula that includes what the company calls a "marital satisfaction index". The Pasadena-based online dating company, which promises help in finding a soul mate based on personality assessments, says 430 questions on the index are a great guide to marital success. Eharmony tracks 29 "dimensions of compatibility" -- split up into character, values and background, emotional makeup and personality -- and offers a free personality profile. Just fill in the form ...

The University of Texas, meanwhile, has disclaimed "…the entire remaining term of all the claims" of patent #6,444,872, which covers live beagle dogs intended for use in experiments", accocrding to the anti-vivisection people in the US. In February the American Anti-Vivisection Society and the PatentWatch project of the Center for Technology Assessment (CTA) filed a legal challenge urging the US Patent and Trademark Office to cancel the beagle patent. The Patent Office has agreed to reexamine the patent.

"This is a tremendous victory not just for the beagle dogs but for the 499 other animals who have been patented in the US," said AAVS President Sue Leary, "The university took the only morally defensible action it could in the face of our challenge. It got the message that animals are not machines, articles of manufacture, or inventors' compositions of matter."

The patent's claims covered, among other things, a canine model of fungal lung infection, and the various methods used to induce a fatal lung infection in the beagle dogs. "The patent also indicated applying the methods to pigs, sheep, monkeys or chimpanzees and, like many other patents on animals, appeared to be exclusively licensed to a private company." Said CTA chief Andrew Kimbrell: "It is long past time for our government to recognise that animals are not patentable machines."

Net loss

New Zealand and the UK are among countries which have passed legislation that allows police and intelligence agencies to intrude into computers and intercept emails. Now the Robert Mugabe-led Zimbabwean government has proposed making its ISPs divulge details of emails deemed to relate to "anti-national activities", whatever they are deemed to be. Mugabe is the man who has suggested that the internet is a tool of colonialists. It is already illegal in Zimbabwe to "undermine the authority of the president" or to "engender hostility" towards him as well as to make abusive, obscene or false statements against him. Zispa, the local ISP association, has asked the government to clarify its proposed addendum to contracts, says the BBC.

Paper trail

Bad news for those of you reading E-tales in print: more people than ever are getting their news from the internet. But you should exult in the fact that more people are reading newspapers than ever before.

The number of newspaper websites around the world has doubled since 1999, says the Paris-based World Association of Newspapers. WAN, which represents 18,000 newspapers, says web audiences for newspapers have grown by 350% over the last five years. Growth in broadband means more people are surfing the internet and fewer are watching house-makeover shows on TV.

Total global circulation was down slightly for the year in the 208 countries surveyed by the Paris-based association, according to the BBC, but over the last five years, newspaper sales worldwide went up by 4.75%.

Europeans are buying fewer newspapers, but newspaper sales were well up in China, India and Russia.

Sadly, newspapers' share of the world media advertising pie fell. But they are still the second largest advertising medium, after television, which took 38% of global media ad-spend in 2003.

Roll over Treasure Island, Flatmates

British satellite TV channel UKTV has launched a new Reality TV series on the internet called Watching Paint Dry. Viewers can log in and watch the progress of different colours and glosses. UKTV claims the new series is as entertaining as most Reality TV shows and the channel's head of lifestyle content said "every other reality show is full of boring drips, so we thought we'd go one step further." Viewers can vote for their favourite paint and the paint drying ritual got an extra jolt of excitement shortly after going live when a fly got caught in a near-dry coating but was tragically unable to free itself, dying online.

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