E-tales: Unmasking the Met Office

Overheard on the Wellington cable car one morning -- an IT staffer for the Met Office holding forth on his cellphone, merrily revealing log-on passwords and IP addresses to all and sundry including various uni students, any one of whom could have been a would-be hacker.

Overheard on the Wellington cable car one morning -- an IT staffer for the Met Office holding forth on his cellphone, merrily revealing log-on passwords and IP addresses to all and sundry including various uni students, any one of whom could have been a would-be hacker. Luckily, a screaming child provided a modicum of security by turning up the decibels each time crucial information was mentioned.

Party person

Spotted at Wellington's Embassy Cinema at 4pm on a Monday -- Paul Swain's press secretary, Andrew Janes. Perhaps 24 Hour Party People, a film about the Manchester music scene, is somehow relevant to telecommunications and IT strategy or maybe Janes' was just taking a well-earned break. It was the first Monday after the election, after all.

Bare cheek

Vodafone chiefs in Australia may rue the day they offered any support to the Bledisloe Cup streaking incident.

Melbourne-based The Age says its Australian managing director Graham Maher could face charges that attract a maximum six months' jail. Male streakers invaded the pitch in Sydney last weekend in a bid to promote Vodafone's pics-by-phone services.

One-time Vodafone NZ head Maher, who will formally be questioned by police, says he told one of the two streakers, Brett Mutton, before the Saturday match that Vodafone would pay any costs associated by an unspecified publicity stunt.

"I said yes, we will support you. How do we handle this I don't know, because we don't condone illegal activity."

But Maher will not rule out paying the streakers' fines, The Age reports. Area police commander Superintendent Allan Wilson says he is seeking legal advice on whether a payment of up to $5000 by Vodafone could further implicate the company.

"There are appropriate laws and penalties for anyone who incites or encourages criminal offences," Wilson says.

Maher admits responsibility for the incident but denies knowlege of what it might have been, saying the firm had many stunts organised for the night. The streak also involved Kiwi Aaron Bain, 25, who says his naked rendition of the haka in front of the All Blacks came after a dare from Mutton, a Sky TV news panel operator. Bain claims Mutton told him Vodafone would pay any fines. Mutton is due in court on August 22, charged with obscene exposure.

PC Direct pair together again

The old firm is reassembling at back-from-the-brink investor IT Capital. Having just pulled off a share shuffle that gives the company an infusion of more than $2 million of new capital, it has also reunited PC Direct founders Maurice Bryham and Sharon Hunter.

Hunter, who had been with Territorial husband Tenby Powell trying to keep the peace in Israel, has been appointed to the IT Capital board. Bryham is the company’s operations chief, and another PC Direct veteran, David McKee Wright, its chief executive. Since making a fortune from the sale of PC Direct to Blue Star for a reported $30 million, Hunter has been running food importer Euro Pacific Foods, whose customers include the New Zealand Army. IT Capital, whose mission is “addressing the funding gap that inhibits most Australasian firms”, had a funding gap of its own until securing $2.1 million last week.

Paying through the prose

You’re probably as bored reading about our irritation at the antics of the PR industry as we are of the nonsense flacks engage in. But indulge us. This week’s dumbest press release came from Qualcomm, and was headed “Qualcomm congratulates Telecom New Zealand on the launch of its third-generation CDMA services”. Services based on several million dollars of Qualcomm gear, needless to say. We’re waiting now for the Telecom release congratulating Qualcomm on building fantastic CDMA equipment and thanking it for its warm endorsement of the new service. And to think, we all pay for this bollocks through the inflated prices we're charged for our phone services.

Painful poetry

The market was slumping that long endless summer

And the tech sector outlook got glummer and glummer.

Then Enron and WorldCom and G-Crossing went reeling

(Even Martha got accused of insider dealing).

Things went from bad to worse and then went to awful

While a certain accounting firm did things unlawful.

But not all those in business saw gloom, doom and despair

Not all sat around pulling out handfuls of hair ...

(for more of Mark Gibbs' doggerel, go to www.nwfusion.com -- free registration required).

Blue's X-Box clues

How good is Microsoft's long-awaited X-Box? Well, Big Blue's local mouthpiece Jeremy Seed has became of of the few Kiwis to try one out while visiting friends in Canada last month. Seed says X-Box has high-resolution shoot-em-up games, but "at the end of the day, it's just a gaming box". He adds that the X-Box was initially expensive in Canada until Microsoft dropped the price within a couple of months of its launch, and his friends were complaining about its lack of games compared with Sony and Nontendo.

PC filth

If you think the contents of your PC is filthy, and we don't mean porn on the hard drive, a US survey has found that real bugs -- that's the American term for cockroaches and spiders -- are threatening computers stateside. The survey of 1300 computer repair professionals unearthed caches of marijuana and cash, screws and nuts, and "many generations of" of mice, from babies to rodent skeletons. Not suprising, then, that the 2002 Dust-Off Survey of PC Hygiene claims that bad personal computer hygeine is linked to 70% of keyboard failures and 85% of breakdowns in printers and mouse devices.

Thai whizz expels bugs

However, you won't get bugs in Saranyou Punyaratanabunbhu's system. The Thai has upgraded an anti-mosquito software package to expel cockroaches and rats. His Anti-Mal 2.0, which was developed to fight malaria, repels pests using soundwaves created by the computer's speakers. It can only repel one creature at a time because of the limitations of computer systems, but Saranyou claims 50,000 downloads of the freeware in its first few days of release. He says it won't annoy dogs or cause headaches because of the frequencies it uses.

Spammed into work

Here's something the Department of Work and Income might like to consider: spamming the jobless. In Genoa, Italy the state employment agency was desperate to fill 36 welding positions. Staff sent out 1000 text messages on mobile numbers they had on file. Officials won't say how many posts were filled this way, but claim the response was enthusiastic and no one complained.

Sculptures have feelings too

Canon has created a digital sculture which can be controlled via the internet by participants from around the world. Each visitor to the site simply chooses a block, names it and then controls its position within the digital sculpture, which currently contains 51 other blocks from participants in countries including France, Germany and Luxembourg. Just like digital pets, the sculpture, or so-called digital being, which alters its shape, is awarded health and love points by its user. The "mood" of the sculpture is affected by how fast its maker answers questions sent to their email account. The project aims to promote Canon's Digital Creators contest in Tokyo on December 6.

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