That old insult so often slung at editors -– “your newspaper isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on” -– has been modified for the cyber age, as we discovered during recent correspondence. A story about the open source GPL (general public licence, we know that much) published online prompted a reader to pronounce: “I believe this is a poorly researched article which isn't worth the space it occupies on the server.” We’d just like to point out that trees might be an increasingly scarce resource but the cost of disk storage is falling all the time.
You have to marvel at how relaxed some companies are about updating their websites. Actonz, for example (that’s right, the outfit at the centre of a potentially expensive –- some hundreds of millions are at stake -- tax wrangle with IRD), claims on its site to own Autowriter. Autowriter was one of six packages Actonz was inviting investors to share tax benefits from through the software’s depreciation. The more expensive the software could be shown to be, the bigger the hoped-for tax write-off. Actonz bought the software off its Auckland author for $14 million. (Subsequent valuations put its worth at, on a good day, $20,000.) All of this is of historical interest, although you wouldn’t know so from the Actonz site: Autowriter’s creator didn’t actually see much of the $14 million, so he reclaimed the software -– in 1998.
Award yields weak office joke
Computerworld received a media release from Woosh Wireless, formerly Walker Wireless, announcing that Woosh had won this year's Deloitte-Management magazine Emerging Enterprise Award. Added to Woosh's success in winning several Probe government regional broadband contracts, one wit noted: "They must be Deloitted".
The accountancy firm formerly known as
Speaking of which, if you have ever called the firm Deloitte or Deloittes, shame on you. It was called Deloitte Tush or something, depending on the country you were in that week. But, following a global rebrand and the reabsorption of the consulting arm, it shall now be called .... You will remember that all of the other Grande Cuatro spun off their consulting arms in the wake of 9/11 -- sorry, in the wake of the Enron/Anderson accounting scandal. "The reintegration of our consultancy gives us a unique position among professional services firms," says chief executive Nick Main. "Deloitte is now the firm offering New Zealand's widest range of top quality professional services." It claims 700 specialists (consultants, accountants and others) in five offices around the country. Not grocery, either
Ah, logos. Telecom's new one -- apparently acquired at a cost of over $100,000, ditches the (imaginative we thought) cables threading their way through the name's "o", in favour of the same green-yellow-blue colour scheme in a "four-square" arrangement. No, wait, not really four squares; it's two squares and a rectangle. No resemblance to the four-square four-colour logo of a certain large software company with which Telecom has had an on-off relationship should be perceived. Of course not.
According to the press releases of specialists in feng shui, dutifully reported in the media, the new logo is much more fortunate than the harsh "spearing" image of the cables. We thought it was "thrusting", which marketers usually see as a positive term. The colours remain evocative of earth, water and air, say the feng shui advisers. (It's the Chinese art of arranging things harmoniously, or to make the most money, which might be the same thing.) We're left wondering whether the omission of red means no fire in the belly, or no red ink in the future. Or possibly just absence of a trademark lawsuit.
Mooted, moulted, mounted
Australian telecoms analyst Paul Budde's seminar in Auckland last week was full of his usual out-there-just-enough insights and opinions on broadband, regulation and 3G networks. Naughtily, he once or twice referred to Telecom chief operating officer Simon Moutter as Simon Mounter, before asking the audience if he had the name right. He was politely corrected, no doubt by one of the Telecom staffers in the audience. Moutter's name was also misspelt a while back in publicity material regarding Fieldays, in which he was referred to as Simon Moulter. Not a moot point.
Lies, damned lies and graphs
A slide in Nitish Verma's talk on systems architecture last month supposedly showed that those companies which give attention to "customer-focused results" also achieve good financial outcomes.
He offered a textbook example of the kind of weak correlation that a speaker to the Computer Society on IT productivity once described as "a scatter of points staggering off in a vaguely north-easterly direction". In that case, the graph showed that companies who spent more on IT kind of, well, approximately, made more money. Or maybe, he said, flipping the chart sideways, it suggests rich companies can afford to spend more on IT; or in Verma's case, customer service.
What interests us in these charts are the "outliers". There's a company in Verma's sample, for instance, only middling in its attention to the customer, but one of the highest performers financially. Another, spending slightly more on the customer, is right at the bottom of the profit range. Er, what else are they doing?
In the boondocks
Somebody clever has made a mod of Half-Life, the popular first-person shooter game, set in Australia's Woomera detention centre. It's called Escape From Woomera. It apparently even got arts council funding.
We've written several stories on copyright, the GPL and the danger of appropriating others' work, and a line of humourist Richard Stilgoe's comes to mind: "In fact only the 'ba' and the second 'na' [in Yes we Have No Bananas] are original," he said. "The middle 'na' is from Beethoven's Fifth". (The rest of the tune, he suggested, was lifted from Handel's Hallelujah Chorus and the traditional song Bring Back my Bonnie.)
Dem bones, dem bones
Michael Crichton, author of such techno-thrillers as the time-travelling Timeline (the movie's come out in US), the nano-apocalyptic Prey (movie due out 2005) and Jurassic Park, has had a dinosaur named after him. His site says scientists at the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (apparently near Tianjin) named the new ankylosaurus species Crichtonsaurus bohlini in honour of Crichton and Birger Bohlin, a Swedish paleontologist.