Strictly analogies

At the MediaConnect KickStart 2004 conference, held near Brisbane last week, Salesforce.com's Australian country manager filled his presentation with analogies to a favourite film, Strictly Ballroom.

At the MediaConnect KickStart 2004 conference, held near Brisbane last week, Salesforce.com's Australian country manager filled his presentation with analogies to a favourite film, Strictly Ballroom.

The lead character in the film, a dancer who shocked the ballroom dancing establishment by inventing new steps, was like Salesforce.com, he said, because they're both doing the same thing -- trying something different and incurring the disapproval of the staid, established players.

"We have ex-Oracle, IBM and Siebel people," the country manager, himself a former Oracle man, told the audience.

"Just like the dancer in Strictly Ballroom, we were tired of things the conventional way."

In other words, hosted CRM is a new dance. Hosting is hot, he went on to say, before the another speaker, PeopleSoft's Ray Kloss, questioned the Salesforce.com man's extravagant hype. It was all very gentlemanly, of course.

And then came more Strictly Ballroom analogies. Doug Farber, Salesforce.com's product marketing boss, excelled himself with the observation that another character in the film looked like Steve Ballmer. He then said when he played the video of the film backwards, the Ballmer lookalike was chanting "It's all .Net, it's all .Net." And, being ex-Oracle, he couldn't resist this one: "Another character looks like Larry Ellison -- and the partner he's dancing with looks like PeopleSoft, because she has a pained expression on her face."

Clipping Clippy

The Office 2003 developers at Microsoft obviously had a pretty good idea what question will be asked first in the online help:

Making history

Technological change has impacts on law that affect everyone, including government. So suggests the proposals paper the government issued last year to assess how well the Copyright Act could stand up to the digital technology leaps that have happened in the decade since it was made law. Noted in the paper is the reminder that the the government needs to know how to administer copyright digitally, as it's got two relevant projects on the go. One is a general New Zealand

history site. The other is one of those naughty multi-year "IT" projects -- the New Zealand Online Encyclopaedia. It's expected to take another nine years to finish.

Trojan horse bucks in Cold War

The US rigged software it had sold to the Soviets during the cold war to detonate the Trans Siberian gas pipeline in 1982. At least that's what claimed in

At The Abyss, a new book by senior US national security official Thomas Reed. After an interval the software reset settings on the pipeline that went far beyond the usual pressure, causing an explosion the equivalent of a 3 kiloton nuclear weapon.

Reed was Reagan's special assistant for national security policy at the time; he had also served as Secretary of the Air Force and was a nuclear physicist at the Lawrence Livermore laboratory in California. Instrumental in the scheme was Gus Weiss, who at the time was on the National Security Council and who died last year.

CIA Director William Casey helped the Russians with their shopping, Reed told a US radio programme. "Every piece of sw would have an added ingredient."

The explosion disrupted supplies of gas and thus foreign currency earnings, but also put the willies up the Soviets, who had no idea which other software could be similarly bugged.

Grid your teeth and network

As if we needed putting down any more for the laggardly progress and small scale of our computing, a talk given on behalf of Ian Foster of Argonne National Laboratory in Chicago pointed out that the National Centre for Supercomputing Applications has more computer power in one room than the whole of New Zealand.

New Zealand-born Foster also told a Wellington meeting that this country was 10 years behind the most advanced nations in the speed of its academic internet and links to international networks. We are suitably chastened.

Incidentally, looking for the NCSA website, we were led on one of those tours of discovery that the internet excels in. We don't really know why our first stab was www.ncsa.org, but that turns out to be the Nebraska Council of School Administrators. We fancy their computing resources are more modest, but we note the (possibly) interesting fact that they are holding a GRIT conference (no, not "grid" as in supercomputing) on March 31, at the Cornhusker Hotel in Lincoln. What's a GRIT conference? Search us. Get rich investing in technology?

Raise a glass to Frank X

Foster's talk took place on March 17, St Patrick's Day, when expatriate Irish throughout the world celebrate with free-flowing drink, song, dance and other evocations of their homeland.

This led one of the organisers to suggest wistfully that with so many Kiwis scattered around the globe we really needed one day a year when they too would fondly remember and celebrate the Old Country. Leaving well aside Waitangi Day, which saint would be attached to such an occasion? We are enlightened here. The patron of New Zealand is (don't pretend you didn't know) St Francis Xavier, "the apostle of the Far East". Apparently the furthest he got in this direction was Japan. His feast is December 3. Note it in your diary today.

Going all GUI

"Staff moving from one [organisation] to another will be met with a familiar look and feel." Yes, the spokesperson was referring to the benefits of consistent design, interoperability and shared services across an industry sector, not (we hope) to interesting welcoming rituals for transferring employees.

Free as in phone

We've seen the free phones from Nokia hoax plenty of times, but we were amused to see the email come to us again by way of Baycorp, Trustpower and Meridian, and having seemed to originate at the desk of an executive at TV3 Network Services.

Coming up Trumps

Donald Trump wants to be the only executive in the US allowed to say: "You're fired". Or, at least, the only one allowed to make any money from saying it. According to a copy of his application to the US Patent and Trademark Office, says UK paper The Independent, Trump, 58, wants to claim rights to three phrases so he can commercialise them in the form of clothing, games and casino services. The New York property tycoon is the unlikely comb-over star of TV reality show The Apprentice, in which he trials and unceremonially dumps fawning acolytes.

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