Etales: Shaping up

A regular reader nodded off during a Microsoft-Telecom double-act seminar to be jolted back into awareness when the presenter proposed doing something seemingly impossible with a circle.

A regular E-tales reader was at a recent Microsoft/Telecom Business Club conference in Whangarei. Microsoft's SME specialist, Warwick Grey, was busy doing a presentation on good business practices. The words he used at one point captured our man's attention so much that he awoke from the usual water and peppermints-fuelled seminar reverie: "If you look at the four corners of the circle ..." When he looked up he did see a square surrounding a circle, but still thought it a profound statement to make. Talk about Microsoft reinventing the wheel.

Bargain hunting

News that The Warehouse top dog Greg Muir has gone to Telecom on a short-term contract to help it boost its retail sales had us humming an old tune with new lyrics -- "... at Telecom, at Telecom, where everyone gets ..." Perhaps not. Says Theresa Gattung: “Retail is a critical component of our business strategy. Greg’s appointment is about shifting our retail focus from just selling products to showcasing the latest in integrated mobile, fixed line and internet services." Silly us, thinking it's about selling stuff.

A numbers game

Proof that public relations is about hype and exaggeration: a media release was sent to Computerworld by a PR firm employed by Oracle regarding the OracleWorld conference, to be held in San Francisco in September. It noted that the event "attracted more than 200,000 attendees last year". We were wondering how they could all have squeezed into the convention hall when, further down the release, the figure was noted as a more modest 20,000. One of them, of course, wasn't Oracle's flamboyant CEO Larry Ellison, who gave his keynote speech via video link from Takapuna in Auckland, as he was rather pre-occupied with a small yacht race at the time.

In the frame

And while recording people's vocal curiosities for posterity, we may as well dob in National Radio's Aussie reporter, Phil Kafcaloudes, reporting early last week that prison authorities across the ditch are worried about inmates having late-model mobile phones. "One of the big problems with these phones is you can take photographs of them," Kafcaloudes said.

He meant, of course, "take [and communicate] photographs with them". Hence, he suggested, an inmate's mates on the outside could send in a picture of the prison defences from their angle, pointing to possible escape routes. And we thought dodgy webpages and swimming pool changing rooms were the only problems.

We did like Kafcaloudes's explanation of fellow Greek-Australian Mark Philippoussis's recent loss in the Wimbeldon tennis tournament, though. "His Australian side let him down. I'm sure the Greek side battled through to the end."

Nosing around

Amendments to the Crimes Bill criminalising intrusion into computers or digital message interception are finally through to the statute book, but Green MP Keith Locke failed with a last-minute attempt to have the interception warrants granted to police and intelligence authorities subjected to random audit by a neutral authority. Do we hear the sound of a cliche bouncing? The only people who'd worry about having this data examined, civil libertarians might say, are those who have something to hide. Like their privacy.

Six feet pop-under

We hear an Australian IT journo went to the Sydney Morning Herald website to look up a funeral notice of a family friend. That was no problem, though above the notice was an HP ad with the words "Fast, affordable and more value in the box with up to 4000 free colour prints."

Or something like it

With shades of Microsoft's "life chip" idea, some UK adoptees are to get a digital, online record of where they came from. Lifecard, which is an evolution of the "Life Books" that have been used in fostering and adoption in the UK for a long time, means children will be able to log on and watch video clips from their birth parents, social workers, teachers and people who knew them as babies. A special section will have more information for when they turn 18.

Share effrontery

After announcing losses due to changes in accounting practices, EDS has more trouble. Lawyers representing shareholders in the company plan to file a class-action lawsuit against the company, alleging it artificially inflated its stock price with misleading financial reporting statements.

As well, a fraud investigator is looking into EDS's handling of what it called "problem contracts" including a $US6.9 billion intranet deal with the US Navy and Marines that internal EDS communications reportedly characterise as a "scorched-earth seat rollout" policy.

Microsoft, meanwhile, is considering forking out a special dividend of more than $US10 billion to shareholders in response to investor pressure. It will also give its staff shares rather than just options. Technology companies often don't pay dividends to shareholders, instead concentrating on keeping share prices high. But a lacklustre stock market means this argument holds less water. The company, which began paying a dividend this year, also said in the past that it needed cash reserves for potential lawsuits. Now that it's settled its antitrust case, it's being asked to release some of the $US3 billion in cash it generates each quarter.

Copy wrongs

In an interesting test of copyright law, a young Yank has invented a program that splices together MP3 songs with titles that share words. Composer Jason Freeman created NAG, which can be downloaded from Turbulence.org, so that Purple Rain and Purple Haze can be cut and recombined by the program into something new. It was produced with funds from the US National Endowment for the Arts fund.

Search engines, meanwhile, can display thumbprint images from websites under fair use section of US copyright law, after a ruling by a federal appeals court. The ruling, which also negated the reproduction of full-size images, came about when a photographer sued Arriba Soft, now known as Ditto.com.

Edited by Mark Broatch.

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