E-tales: Man trouble

Apparently HP NZ boss Russell Hewitt was keen to be on the board of technology of the newly formed group Women in Technology. His offer had to be declined. Despite fantastic credentials and experience in the IT industry, Russell lacked one vital requisite for inclusion.

Apparently HP NZ boss Russell Hewitt was keen to be on the board of technology of the newly formed group Women in Technology. His offer had to be declined. Despite fantastic credentials and experience in the IT industry, Russell lacked one vital requisite for inclusion.


The word “solution” is used willy nilly by vendors and increasingly by organisations looking at implementing new hardware and software. Indeed, it is an old saying in the IT industry that there are more solutions on the market than problems.

The word’s in the top 10 list of IT jargon that means exactly what you mean it to say, a fact that would have made Lewis Carroll proud. But the practice took an unfortunate twist last week when a chief executive told a reporter that “... we’re still two to three weeks away from announcing our final solution”.

The correct dose

Speaking of which, in parts of the South Island pharmacists apparently still have the habit (or maybe they’ve changed for the 21st century) of putting “The Tablets”, “The Tincture” and suchlike uninformative labels on medicines. A staffer’s mother-in law has a bottle of some yellowish, aqueous stuff labelled “The Solution”, on a shelf in the shower. When asked what it was the solution to, she couldn’t remember. Shame.

Going backwards

Seen on the back of a Wellington bus: “The people on this bus are reducing air pollution. Together a better way. TelstraClear”.

We wonder how long it’ll be before a graffitist from the considerable Wellington region lobby against thick pole-strung cables counters with “TelstraClear increases visual pollution”.

Our Wellington correspondent has fought the good fight for progress, suggesting to some of these people that through the cables you can see, among other views, Ruapehu, New Orleans, Antarctica, and at times and with NASA’s cooperation, Mars, rather than just the boring brownish-green hills across the road. But it doesn’t seem to cut any ice.

The cheek of it

A recent email arrived from:




We were particularly impressed by the presumptuous nature of this bit:


No bull

How much does top management really understand about information technology?

The project manager of a well-known organisation last week recalled how her bosses were curious about her funding proposal for an implementation project because it included plans for a “Citrix farm”.

“It amazed people,” she says. The organisation’s chief executive was questioning the wisdom of putting in a farm, she says. “Our chief financial guy was asking about it as well.” The project will now be ring-fenced. Probably.

Just so you kNow

Novell recently announced it is restructuring and rebranding — again — its software products into three broad groups. The new categories for the Utah-based company are Novell exteNd, Novell Nsure and Novell Nterprise.

Novell exteNd groups together web-based application development software, NSure packages together identity management products and Nterprise is the new brand for cross-platform network services.

Novell’s consulting and services division is to be known as Novell Ngage. We don’t know if anyone else finds this inappropriate capitalisation a bit aNNoying, or is wondering if the company is not still uNsure of its direction. The proof will come when Novell Ncreases its market share.

Net gain

The Wireless Ethernet Compatibility Alliance, WECA for short, recently renamed itself the Wi-Fi Alliance. However, it has kept its old web address, www.weca.net. An informative website it is too, full of information about the technology of wireless LANs. If you’re wondering why it ends in .net rather than .com, it must have been beaten to the punch by Canada’s West Edmonton Christian Assembly. As for .org, this was already occupied by the US’s Westchester Emergency Communications Association. Thankfully, if it ever wants to change for good, or sell to the Western European Catatonics Association, it has also snaffled www.wifialliance.com.

Dogs and donkeys

Anyone offended by Telecom Mobile’s advertisement featuring a small hairy dog getting friendly with a trouser leg was no doubt horrified at a (very) direct marketing approach taken in the UK. Nokia phone logo retailer Phonetastic UK sent messages telling people “You are a dick and I am going to kick your head in ya big useless donkey. UPGRADE UR MOB 0800 0859362.”

The UK’s Advertising Standards Authority upheld a complaint, saying it was concerned that the advertisers had not shown how the text message was targeted and concluded that it was likely to cause serious or widespread offence to recipients. Those easily offended should also avoid the “adult” personalisation logos on Phonetastic’s website. Tsk, kids today...

Kicking injuries

Something that could be just the ticket for the All Blacks, the New Zealand Warriors or Carlos Spencer is biomedical software that promises to predict which player is most likely to be unfit to play. The BBC reports that the software, developed by Computer Associates, uses data collected on player health to predict who is most likely to be injured. Italian soccer club AC Milan is trialling the software, having become frustrated at expensive signings who can’t play due to dodgy knees, groins and hamstrings. Several other top European soccer clubs have apparently shown interest in using the software. CA claims it’s 70% accurate, which is probably better than most bookies’ forecasts.

Blue’s loos

More intellectual property madness, this time from corporate giant IBM. It has just flushed a patent for software that determines a method for who gets to use the toilet in planes, trains and ferries. Big Blue received the patent in December but withdrew it after a claim was made against it, says Freerepublic.com.

The patent, number 6,329,919, says toilets — restrooms in American — are often too busy, so people waste time queuing up to use the convenience, which can create a hazard in the aisles of airplanes and passengers may miss a significant part of the inflight movie. IBM won’t say why it eliminated its patent, but the US Patents office has long been criticised for issuing patents on products seen as obvious, such as issuing a patent for a method of swinging sideways on a swing. ZDNet reports the US Patent & Trademark Office granted 187,882 patents in 2001, with 296 requests to re-examine individual patents. For nine years running, IBM has been the leading recipient of them, saying its patent portfolio brought in $US1.5 billion in revenue in 2001.

Hacker’s handy hints

What is the biggest security threat to a corporation? Viruses? Hacking? Donning his white hat is infamous hacker Kevin Mitnick, who has just written a book fingering — not all that originally, but nice to hear it from the horse’s mouth, so to speak — company staff. Mitnick earned notoriety (and jail time) in the late 1980s and early 90s as a phone phreaker and then hacker.

Mitnick even had to get permission from his probation officer to use a computer to write his book, The Art of Deception: Controlling the Human Element of Security. It claims that employees are the biggest threat to company security. Hackers will casually quiz staff who inadvertantly pass on useful information, he says. His website outlines his exploits and battles with the law, and features a countdown clock to when he can “truly be free” — able to use email and the web again — some three months away.

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