E-tales: Bottom draw

It's something of a tradition for Larry Ellison to be mooned by his yachting rivals when they pass him at sea, at least according to The Economist, and since he has been 17th man this week we were straining our eyes at the screen looking for bare cheek and grim responses.

It's something of a tradition for Larry Ellison to be mooned by his yachting rivals when they pass him at sea, at least according to The Economist, and since he has been 17th man this week we were straining our eyes at the screen looking for bare cheek and grim responses. The result of the Louis Vuitton is unknown as we write this, but Lazza has done well to see off a bundle of challengers for the Cup, including one part-sponsored by Microsoft. The real question is, can he do the same off the water?

Hidden assets

Talking about good corporate citizens, you may or may not be surprised to learn that a number of IT giants maintain a number of tax havens to help them spread their fiscal load. IBM, for instance, has 89, according to the book How Companies Lie. AT&T has 36 and Verizon 21. Enron, by comparison, had 2832. IBM, though, is noted as having one of the strongest boards (read: good governance) on the US stock exchange.

Training (big) wheels

Is ITANZ the new proving ground for the industry's non-vendor chief executives? Former head honchos Peter Macaulay and Tone Borren have both resurfaced: the former as the new exec director of InternetNZ and the latter as the founding CEO of the Next Generation Internet Consortium. E- tales expects to see current executive director Jim O'Neill and president, IBM's Nick Lambert, moving on to bigger and better things.

Gripe line

Be aware that if you have a prepay phone and use it as a person locator -- ie you don't put any money on it for a while -- Vodafone will cut you off. Though you can still call the phone. We know that they warn you of such events, but it seems mad when there's calls being made to it and revenue to be made. Is Telecom any more tolerant of prepay wasters? Answers on a txt msg, please.

Cold comfort

At Apple's recent Macworld in San Fran an unexpected flurry of products emerged, though one might have passed many eyeballs by, notes the New York Times: an $US500 iPod snowboarding jacket.

"It's a black windbreaker-like shell, co-developed with Burton and made of triple Gore-tex, that includes a snug pocket for your iPod music player, a channel that lets the headphone cable emerge at your collar, and even soft-touch Play, Next Track/Previous Track and volume buttons right on the sleeve."

Gossip park

Over the break, one of Robert Cringely's spies reported hearing quite a lot about Macromedia being acquired. And the alleged acquirer is none other than Microsoft. She said that Microsoft has been very jumpy as of late because of all the innovation on Macromedia's part. There was also much immediate speculation -- but no hard facts -- about Microsoft buying Borland after IBM bought Rational. And despite considerable pressure from the industry -- not the least of which from IBM, as well as outspoken users and analysts -- to turn Java over to the open-source community, Sun may be heading in the opposite direction, says Cringely. Stay tuned until Sun's next JavaOne user conference, at which the Java copyright symbol just might be knighted with some new superpowers. Rumour has it that Jonathan Schwartz, Sun's executive vice president of software, will be detailing ways Sun can better leverage Java -- for generating revenue, that is. Shh, don't tell Big Blue, BEA Systems, or any of the Java licensees, for that matter.

Fly boys

Banking and television seem to be good qualifications for a senior post at Air New Zealand.

The IT industry gave a collective cheer when Ralph Norris, CIO for the ASB Bank was appointed CEO of the company. It represented a rare recognition of the managerial skills of IT management. Norris, as we know, moved on to even greater things, as head of Air New Zealand. Let no one utter the phrase "hospital pass", please.

Now the airline has found a permanent CIO to fill the considerable gap left several years ago by Garth Biggs’ exit. Network manager Andrew Care has been "acting CIO" in the meantime.

Rob Fyfe was appointed to the CIO post just before Christmas. He has an aircraft background, as maintenance flight commander on No 75 Fighter Squadron in the mid-80s.

However, he soon decided on a career change and went into banking and commerce, successively with PostBank, the BNZ and its parent Australia’s NAB. In 1998, he returned to New Zealand as general manager Consumer for Telecom NZ. More recently he was chief operating officer and then managing director of ITV Digital based in London. So he has flying, technology and TV experience, but, like Norris, has his banking chops. Perhaps it is appropriate in an airline not quite out of the financial woods yet, to have a coterie of bankers at the top.

Yes, we prefer "coterie". More polite and, we’re sure, a better reflection of the airline’s managerial and IT supremos than someone’s suggestion that a collection of bankers should be called "a wunch".

Eye spies

Are you having trouble identifying staff when they turn up for work? You could copy the Venerable Bede Church of England School in Sunderland. From September, the school will be using retinal scans on children when they withdraw books from the library or obtain meals at the school canteen.

School headteacher Ed Yates says retinal scan technology is cheaper than card swipe systems and the 900 pupils are enthusiastic about adopting the James Bond-style equipment.

Campaigners Privacy International fears such a move will desensitise people to more comprehensive privacy invasion such as ID cards and DNA testing later in life, adding that tens of thousands of UK schollchildren are already fingerprinted by schools without parental consent or knowledge as they automate their school libraries.

There's a different across the Atlantic. UK website The Register reports a US survey found most Americans are willing to accept the use of biometrics in fighting crime and preventing fraud, if proper privacy safeguards are applied.

Copy wrong

The internet is being used to find cheating students. British universities are signing up to the Plagiarism Advisory Service, which claims to identify copied work within four hours. Executive secretary Dr Michael Read says the internet makes it easy for students to find resources and copy them. California-based iParadigms supplied the technology, which is already used by various US institutions. January is expected to pose a major test for the program as it is a peak submission period for assignments, reports news website ananova.com.

Christmas gift

The web's 24/7/365 possibilities allowed a Briton to order a divorce on Christmas Day. The Essex web designer paid $240 to download legal documentation to divorce his wife, claiming unreasonable behaviour. Mark Keenan, managing director of Divorce-Online, says when he launched the website three years ago he never expected people to buy a divorce on Christmas Day. But the former lawyer says divorces are often ordered online on Christmas Eve and Boxing Day, and January is the busiest month for the company. Christmas apparently brings relationship problems to a head.

Book of life

The internet is being used to find and name every species on Earth. An organisation called the All Species Foundation is creating a one-stop shop of data for both amateur and professional naturalists so that creatures' characteristics can be learned, including how they interact with other species. Some 1.7 million species have been discovered so far, with estimates of the total ranging from 10 million to 100 million. Scientists say the scheme may take 25 years, so given the number of species becoming extinct due to human activities some of the data may end up being little more than academic.

Compiled by Darren Greenwood.

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