E-tales: Please sir, I want some more

An article in a recent North & South magazine about people leaving the cities for cheaper country areas mentioned the very pertinent fact that in other cities with cost disparities from the rest of the country (London, Sydney), professionals often get extra in their pay packet.

An article in a recent North & South magazine about people leaving the cities for cheaper country areas mentioned the very pertinent fact that in other cities with cost disparities from the rest of the country (London, Sydney), professionals often get extra in their pay packet. We hear that at least one large government department is discussing that very possibility for Auckland and Wellington workers. It's inevitable that the calls for the same in private industry, particularly in competitive occupations like IT, will get louder as city mortgages get heftier. Bring it on, we say.

See see mail

A journalist's contact list is her or his closely guarded secret. Thanks to the advent of email here at E-tales HQ our contact database is growing by the hour. Today, for example, we've added contacts from the French and Chinese embassies in Wellington as well as two MPs and a minister of the crown (although we all know how often they check their email) not to mention Creative New Zealand, Trade New Zealand and a variety of other publications (should we ever wish to exchange email with them).

How can this be? It seems at least one "communications adviser" to a local government body hasn't learned how to communicate without revealing the email addresses of all the participants and the pet names given to each correspondent.

Help wanted

Headline of the week: "Aust IT manager's mental health failing." ZDNet Australia was trying to communicate the gist of a Meta Group survey, which found that "change-rage" and "information fatigue" are now commonplace throughout the IT industry, as the workforce adjusts to new global market conditions. Over 71% of US-based IT managers rank burn-out as a serious concern in their organisations. Or you could just take it at face value.

Booking leave

The abrupt departure of EDS boss Dick Brown this month reminded us of a book penned by Brown and presented to us during a visit to the company’s Wellington office. The title escapes us so, thinking that Amazon.com might have a copy that would refresh the memory, we did a search under the author’s name. That brought up a couple of Dick Brown books: Fly Fishing for Bonefish, and Hot Air Ballooning. That rings a bell.

Remembering that the book was in the usual vein of how to run a successful megacorporation, Hot Air Ballooning sounds like it could be a sequel. Another title that pops up in the Amazon catalogue during a Brown search -- Drafting Prenuptial Agreements. How apt. Dick Brown clearly knew something about these, taking his leave of EDS with cash and stock valued at about $US36 million.

Cutting edge

Stupidest job title: surgeon general, a role filled at security company TruSecure by one Russ Cooper. Whatever next? Urologist at network gear maker Alcatel, perhaps, or dietician at storage company EMC?

Chinese walls

And one from the "If you can't join 'em, beat 'em" school of thinking. Out of the land of the copyright-ambivalent comes HTMLProtector v2.0. Shanghai-basd AntsSoft says HTMLProtector is a website protection program "that encrypts your web page HTML source code and protects your website from unauthorised copying, spam robots and website rippers" -- for only $US30.

"The ease of copying web page source code, text and images without permission is a real problem for every webmaster today," says AntsSoft. "If your web page contains unique or proprietary information, protecting that intellectual property on your website may be of primary importance. HTMLProtector protects everything in your web pages, including HTML source code, script, text and images, and prevents others from viewing or using your source code." Microsoft would be proud.

Picking winners

We assume this release was simply noting the serendipity. Apparently, in honour of New Zealand scientist Sir William Pickering the Royal Society of New Zealand has established a new medal -- the Pickering Medal for Engineering and Technology.

"The medal will be awarded no more than annually, and nominations will ultimately be judged by the council of the Royal Society."

It goes on: "Sir Gil Simpson, President of the Royal Society, said 'Only very special people take man where he has never gone before. Sir William Pickering is that special person and the Pickering Medal is a very special medal.' It so happens that the road that runs past Sir Gil's company, Jade Software Corporation, in Christchurch, is called Sir William Pickering Drive."

Ladle it out

We throw in a serious one every now and then just to keep you awake. Non-profit organisations in the US can turn to www.techsoup.org in times of IT crisis, and there's no reason why the hard-of-budget here can't benefit too. Free software tools and community advice and analysis are on offer. It even discusses open source and freeware sensibly.

Apple Gore

Many of you know that former US vice president Al Gore was elected to the Apple board. And that he fills a seat left vacant by the September resignation of Oracle chief Larry Ellison, who clearly has other more pressing issues at hand, like getting more people to buy his application suite.

Apple head Steve Jobs praised Gore, who is an adviser to the search firm Google, a visiting professor at the University of California and popularised the term "information superhighway". Jobs cited Gore's wealth of knowledge about running the US government -- and pointed out that he does his own video editing in Apple's Final Cut Pro software.

Sounds sweet

From the great (if somewhat eccentric-in-a-US-way) New York Times mag: a guy has invented a really cool device that sends out sound waves in a sharply demarcated blast. Using a non-percussive speaker, it sends soundwaves along a column of air through ultrasound and somehow back into audible sound at a precise point that makes people 100m away think they're walking through a rainforest or in a concert chamber. No one else can hear it. See the article here.

Just relax, George

This has nothing to do with IT, but at least it's topical. The NY Times mag also interviewed Alfonso Cuarón, the director of sexy Mexican film Y Tu Mamá También and currently working on the next Harry Potter film. It's not so different, he says.

"Thematically, it's actually very close to Y Tu Mamá También,' Cuarón says. Harry Potter is about finding your own identity, and so is Y Tu Mamá.

But 'Y Tu Mamá' deals with class and homosexuality. Doesn't Harry Potter have fewer political overtones?

"No. Harry Potter deals with class, with race, with power. I see this book as a metaphor for our times. The evil Voldemort is very similar to Saddam Hussein. Or George Bush. They're really the same. I believe George Bush and Saddam Hussein should go to a desert island together and relax. It would be a love affair, like in Y Tu Mamá También. And then there would be no war."

Dead as a ... hacker

Microsoft said it was tongue in cheek, but it has nevertheless withdrawn an ad for XP Pro and Net Server 2003 that suggested hackers were doomed thanks to the security of its software.

Published in the November edition of South African technology magazine Brainstorm and Time magazine, the ad features a dodo, a woolly mammoth, a sabre-toothed tiger and a hacker with a caption that reads: "Not everybody benefits from our secure software.''

The local advertising authority, who received a complaint from a freelance writer, said by depicting animals that were extinct along with a hacker, the ad wrongly created the impression that its software doomed hackers. ``The secure software claims are currently unsubstantiated, the visual representation, which creates the impression that Microsoft software is secure, is misleading,'' the ruling said.

Send snippets to Mark Broatch.

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