E-tales: Operation Face Save

"Political pressure? Absolutely not." Sorry for asking, then. But we thought we should, when state-owned BCL last week buried the hatchet it had been wielding over Walker Wireless.

“Political pressure? Absolutely not.” Sorry for asking, then. But we thought we should, when state-owned BCL last week buried the hatchet it had been wielding over Walker Wireless.

BCL had sought a judicial review of radio spectrum licences granted to Walker Wireless, saying it was concerned about potential interference with its network. The stoush was headed for the courts when, suddenly, the action was dropped. When BCL initiated the review, a spokesman for communications minister Paul Swain had told this paper that the issue was “an operational matter”. That’s not what the minister told The New Zealand Herald a few days later, though, laying into BCL for its “ludicrous” action. Did somebody say interference?

Shore thing

Spam alert. One of Computerworld’s more intrepid journalists risked crossing Cook Strait during the summer, to observe life on the mainland for a couple of weeks. He availed himself of The Interisland Line’s splendid online booking system, which reasurringly allowed him to print a receipt for his ticket purchase, and sent an email confirmation.

The holiday was had, photos processed and the whole excursion became just a pleasant memory. Until he was spammed by the ferry company last week with a cheery “Hi there, thank you for recently choosing to travel with The Interisland Line [you mean, there’s some other way of getting your car and across the strait?] and booking online”.

Displaying their depth of spam ignorance, the message went on: “To say thanks, please find attached some exclusive ‘Ship to Shore’ offerings …" Our journalist says if there really is a choice of ferry company, this spamming experience has ensured he’ll be catching its boat next time.

Left at the scanner aisle

A well-known communist former firebrand we ran into at a Dick Smith store has moved into a quieter phase of life these days. He told us: "But I still try to give some time to politics."

He's clearly still vociferous enough to have been looking for a diagnosis and repair job on the loud-hailer he was carrying. He suspected the battery may have failed, but Dick Smith couldn't provide the right one to give it a test.

The small stuff

Warwick Sullivan of the NZ Defence Force reports this week that the G2003 agreement for government bulk licensing of Microsoft software is in the legalistic phase of "dotting the i's and crossing the t's". It occurs to us that it's not exactly the best metaphor, as the I and the T in "IT" are neither dotted nor crossed.

There has been a growing rash of small i's in the industry in recent years, we note, with Apple's iMac, iTunes, iPod and Oracle's 8i and 9i applications suites among the notables. Both companies are, of course, strong rivals of Microsoft and both are treated in a cavalier way by Microsoft's Word, which will insist on automatically capitalising the i's and making it hard to turn them back to lower case.

When "LInux" starts turning up in our Word documents, we'll know it's a conspiracy.

Tagging is fun

Oh the joy of media releases. Mind you, some are quite unintentionally amusing, particularly when they get a high mark in our mail filter for spammish language like "there is no obligation" and far too much UPPER CASE prose.

Attempts to introduce technological sophistications into the format often fall embarrassingly flat too. Congratulations, anyway, to Equant, which, according to a release, has signed a five-year, $US29 million contract renewal to provide a global IP VPN to household appliance maker Electrolux, "headquartered in <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Stockholm, Sweden."

We hope the day never comes when Swedish XML champions make the Stockholm council put it on the street signs.

Palms and pilots

The AusCert conference on security attracted 511 people from 10 countries, says one attendee. This despite the threat of SARS. It would have nothing to do with the fact that it was held at the picturesque Royal Pines Resort on the Gold Coast, which boasts a world-class golf course, of course.

SARS and bars

Speaking of SARS, HP NZ tells us that the affliction doesn't affect business too much in these virtual times, but it means there are 16 countries staff can't travel to and seven that they can't travel from.

Ear and now

We hope, really hope, someone at AdMedia was attempting a joke. The May issue of the advertising industry newsletter praised Telecom's GO27 ads after running down its old "back slashes, wanky imagery and meaningless phrases" campaign. Fair enough, but the writer suggested that if mobile phones can send images then the camera must be in the phone. Ergo, isn't all people will see a closeup of someone's ear? Er, no.

Social re-engineering

A reader saw our recent E-tale on email scams and admitted to having nearly been badly stung. An email asked him to visit a website to check some online credit details. The site purported to be a PayPal site, but it was the old trick of paypal.com followed directly by a string of numbers and symbols. When he went there, our reader found it looked for all money like a PayPal web page, with logo and link-through.

"The site is gone now, of course, but I did go in and get as far as typing my email address before thinking "Hey, this hasn't pulled up my existing information." It was, of course, asking me to fill out credit card details and passwords as 'a security check'."

The really sad thing, says our reader, "is that I don't think I have a Paypal account at all".

Porn yesterday

Another in the industry fell for a just-as-ancient trap. He went to Gen-i's website and saw that the integrator appeared to have a link to a porn site. He wondered if it was the work of a disgruntled employee or maybe a change in direction for the company. The cheek of it! He soon enough discovered that it was some kind of virus on his machine that hyperlinks certain text in a website to a particular porn site.

Fighting for freedom

WorldCom, or MCI as it is now called, has won the US Defence Department contract to supply Iraq with a cellular phone network.

It'll be a GSM network, in keeping with the rest of the Middle East, not CDMA, which San Diego congressman Daniel Issa urged the US government to select, so as to allow CDMA patent holder Qualcomm, based in San Diego, to win the contract.

Issa was horrified that GSM, a technology so much associated with Europe, may be deployed in Iraq, his objection being that most of Europe was against the US invasion.

Boycotting French champagne is one thing, but plonking CDMA in an all-GSM part of the world is taking parochialism and self-interest a bit far.

Store wars

If you're already feeling that technology is taking over your life, you haven't seen anything yet.

An experimental store that opened last month in Rheinberg, Germany, the Extra Future Store -- a stunning piece of branding -- is being piloted by the Metro Group, a German-based retailer, SAP and Intel.

When shoppers enter the store, says The New York Times, they're provided with a small touch-screen computer with a built-in bar code scanner, which allows shoppers to scan purchases for payment as they move through the store. For items that require weighing, the store has installed scales equipped with digital cameras that use image-recognition software to figure out and then price the kind of object they are weighing. Radio frequency identification tags on pallets or products allow the store to track products and their sales.

The partners in the experiment didn't calculate the extra costs the scheme would impose, but before the store opened the group made one change that's unusual for Germany: plastic rather than metal shopping carts were provided, as the usual ones played havoc with radio signals.

The price of fame

Happy to be a vendor's reference site but terrified of the hordes descending to poke and prod your best intentions, or the "burnout" that film stars face answering the same questions? Aberdeen Group, an IT market analysis "and positioning services" firm, has launched a service for IT suppliers that manages customer references for sales prospects.

In its Online Reference Service, Aberdeen analysts capture one-time interviews which are managed on a controlled-access web site hosted by Aberdeen. Interviews can be navigated by question or topic, and prospect access can be limited to one or more interviews within a larger library. "Aberdeen's Online Reference Service 'protects' your references from burnout, ensures consistent messages and lets sales managers move forward the use of references in the selling process," the company says.

Edited by Mark Broatch.

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