E-tales: Lost connections

We have no doubt that Canterbury University's Human Interface Technology Lab, is doing some sterling work on easing people's relations with computers; perhaps they'd care to have a HIT at the university's phone system some time.

It’s unfortunately not an uncommon experience these days. We phone a university and ask for a particular department. The response shows the receptionist is unfamiliar with it.

A rustling of paper is heard, followed by transfer to a line where eventually a voicemail message comes on, from someone who just announces her name, leaving us unsure whether we’ve reached the right place or not.

We leave a message, with apologies in case we did get a “bum steer”, hang up and go to the university website, and after the usual number of misfires on the search engine, manage to find that the respondent is in the right unit, and collect a second name.

We go back and ask for that person. We are put through to an eternally ringing line. Eventually we are returned to the operator, who says: “His voicemail must be turned off. I’ll turn it on and you can leave another message.” We are put through to a brass band. The operator comes back apologetic and says: “I thought I switched the voicemail on. I’ll have another go, and I’ll stay with you this time.” Another eternal ringing ensues. We tell the operator, “It doesn’t look as though it’s working.” “No”, she says, “perhaps ...” and gets abruptly cut off with a series of loud beeps.

We have no doubt that our intended target, Canterbury University’s Human Interface Technology (HIT) Lab, is doing some sterling work on easing people’s relations with computers; perhaps they’d care to have a HIT at the university’s phone system some time.

Time for change

Computerworld was recently invited to interview someone but was given several time windows: Wednesday 6 November, 11:00-14:00am, Thursday 7 November, 11:00-14:00pm, etc. We thought the whole reason for using the 24 hour clock was to avoid having to say am or pm. What do we know?

Och, it’s only a game

“A challenging new entry in the children’s software market,” was the heading of a recent press release that recently grabbed our attention. Not really our area, but it was something different to the usual vendor product announcements.

It transpires this new entry in the children’s software market is a game called Hamish McTavish, which features a young Scottish lad who has adventures roaming around the highlands and lowlands of his homeland.

According to makers’ muonSoft, the game allows children to explore Scottish history, culture and geography. MuonSoft says “during the adventure, kids will battle haggis, thistles, Loch Ness Monsters and many other enemies”. Enemies? We thought those things were emblems of Scotland. For enemies, surely the best choice would have been the English. An adult version of the game featuring William “Braveheart” Wallace decapitating and hacking the limbs off English soldiers would be a hit, we’re sure.

A conference of two halves

We think Commerce Commission spokesperson Jackie Maitland has been watching too much cricket or golf, or something. An invitation to Computerworld to attend the media briefing by telecommunications commissioner Douglas Webb about his determination (on the interconnection, TSO and wholesaling disputes between Telecom and TelstraClear) reads “Please RSVP ... by close of play Monday 4 November”.

TelstraUnclear

A Computerworld staffer was bemused when he called TelstraClear’s helpdesk and was asked “Are you an ex-TelstraSaturn or an ex-Clear customer?” First up, IDG Communications, Computerworld’s publisher, is neither, having recently switched from Telecom to TelstraClear for most of its telephony services. Second, a year after TelstraClear came into being, what relevance could it possibly have? It suggests there are still some unresolved issues regarding the merger. The worst thing is, the service received from the helpdesk hasn’t been up to much.

Who are you?

You’ve got to love email disclaimers. Seriously. One we got says “... is intended to be read by the named recipient only ...” But of course they’ve sent it bcc so there aren’t any.

It also requires a certain amount of mind reading: “If you are not the intended recipient...” What if they’ve sent it to me accidentally? If it’s come to me it’s got my name on it...

What, no Ermintrude?

“UNBULLIEVABULL — A TOWN LIKE NO UDDER! For immoodiate release!" Had enough yet? We had. Wait, there’s more.

“New Zealand Dairy Foods’ Anchorville — the virtual ‘cowmmunity’ in which Tim the Mare and his loyal citizens live — is live on the internet today.”

Created from the cartoon characters on Anchor’s milk bottles Anchorville online is a whole new world created by eight — count em — of Saatchi & Saatchi New Zealand’s Wellington-based interactive team, as part of Anchor’s new integrated advertising, “to show just how much fun milk can be”.

Games and activities, etc can win Sony Discmans and Baby G Shock watches, a Nintendo GameBox, Pikmin game and Wavebird Wireless Controller.

Moos New Zealand parade

Speaking of Anchorville, one of us with too much time can’t wait for the Parade of Cows to hit Auckland.

MiCowlangelo. Picture, if you will, the “bovine Miss M”...

The site says that Auckland will soon serve as an urban pasture to the herds of painted, costumed, festooned and creatively transformed cows etc etc. Said staffer saw them in Brisbane, and the New York event features fleetingly in Salman Rushdie’s recent novel Fury, where he remarks particularly on “Bette Moodler, alias “the bovine Miss M”.

One of his favourites from Brisbane — MiCowlangelo (why not Moo- cowlangelo?), from the Sistine Cattle.

Microsoft #1 : Justifiable caution

Joanne Bos, operational IT head of healthAlliance, got to see Microsoft big cheese Steve Ballmer in Sydney the other week. One aspect of his visit that caught her ear were comments by a fellow speaker that Microsoft is becoming more customer-focused and service-oriented. “It’s very refreshing that they’re taking that approach, but I’ll wait and see if the benefits arrive.”

Microsoft #2

Far from expecting a cuddly Microsoft after its antitrust action in the US courts, the convicted monopolist still wants everyone to know it is still king. UK-based IT scandal sheet The Register reports that the behemoth is seeking a developer evangelist who can “demolish competition by knowing everything they do and thwarting their every move in the relevant spaces”.

The Register wonders if the ad might be a spoof, saying the vacancy does not appear on the main Microsoft vacancies site. It can be found at here, so if it is genuine maybe the ad can be put down to “local over-exuberance in the Philippines”.

Even so, the story claims the main site offers some interesting vacancies, with both the UK and Japan seeking Escalation Managers (lift attendants?) and a clutch of Developer Evangelists, including a “General Manager - Evangelist” for .Net. “For this job, you should be a senior, battle-scarred veteran of 1 or more platform wars who has the chutzpah to make it happen regardless of the barriers, and the sense to ask for forgiveness when appropriate,” the ad reportedly states.

IT bites man

A graphic artist in Stavanger, Norway was shocked to find his computer spring to life at 10pm one night, reports Aftenposten.

It turned out that his neighbour, who was coincidentally his boss, was using his computer. The HP PCs both came with a cordless keyboard and the signal had travelled 150 metres, instead of the maximum 20.

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