E-tales: Monday-itis

They must really not like Monday. In June PricewaterhouseCoopers Consulting told the world it was changing its name - to Monday - in advance of listing on the sharemarket. When IBM announced last Wednesday that it was to buy PwC Consulting, Monday didn't get a mention.

Monday-itis

They must really not like Monday. In June PricewaterhouseCoopers Consulting told the world it was changing its name – to Monday – in advance of listing on the sharemarket. When IBM announced last Wednesday that it was to buy PwC Consulting, Monday didn’t get a mention. After the derision the name change brought forth, it’s hardly surprising.

And speaking of which, yes you heard right. After Monday comes Braxton, Deloitte Consulting's new name. Forget for a moment the singer with the see-through dresses, Braxton is one of the names best associated with fake labour pains ... yes, Deloitte Consulting: the braxton-hicks of the IT world (Braxton Hicks is, by the way, also the name of at least a couple of pop bands).

Taking credit

Phew, it’s a relief Computerworld didn’t cop the blame for the recent difficulties IT Capital directors ran into with shareholders over a rescue plan for the struggling company. Instead, the stroppy head of the Shareholders Association, Bruce Sheppard (he of the pith hat), can take the credit for the scaling back of a complicated share shuffle put by directors Maurice Bryham and David McKee Wright to the company’s AGM. A July 30 IT Capital press release claimed Sheppard scared off investors through a “campaign to derail” the rescue strategy. The tone of the press release reminded us of a lawyer’s letter sent to Computerworld in February on behalf of the pair, warning against printing a letter to the editor critical of them when a shareholder meeting was imminent. The letter went to print and no more was heard.

Country cousins

While it seemed fine to the air-conditioned journos watching on video link in the big smoke up north, Paul Swain's pre-election launch of Taranaki's broadband launch was by some rural accounts a bit of a technological shambles -- nothing worked, the links failed, you couldn't hear stuff. One hack even had the nerve to joke "Who needs technology, eh?"

Water baby

Sadly for Apple, at a presentation at a Borland developers conference in Sydney last week only one person put up their hand to say they were developing for Mac OS X -- though the interest is clearly there, with about 100 turning up. Many said were developing in Borland tools and some for Unix (Mac OS X's Darwin, the Unix "X" behind OS X, is based on open source). Development for Apple can be done using a groovy interface like OS X's Aqua -- Americans seem to pronounce it aakwa -- if you so wish.

Luck of the draw

Telecom has signed up its 20,000th JetStream customer. The lucky fellow, Paul Rodley, won six months' free JetStream and a hamper of groceries. Telecom's press release goes on to explain how Rodley is ICT director at Christ's College, a private Christchurch secondary school.

"I'll be able to manage the college servers from home and work on database development and our intranet," the release quotes him as saying.

Luckily, Telecom has also been working with the college on its LAN -- just imagine if Rodley had been the 19,999th or the 20,001st JetStream customer and turned out to be just an everyday home user.

Howard's way

Staff at newly pruned telco TelstraClear should be pleased to hear that boss Rosemary Howard travels cattle class to the other side of the ditch, but don't those airhosties fuss over her.

Government thinking

In last week's e-tales we reported, after experimenting with the e-government portal at Govis, that the "what to do when" index page seemed to have events in a rather "arbitrary" order, beginning "appearing in court" and "having a baby". Portal developer Mark Harris tells us the order (given a little creative marking of the "key" words) is basically alphabetical: appearing, baby ... see? He also let on that in earlier implementations, the second entry was "arranging a funeral". That was manipulated further down the list so the top items didn't look too depressing.

Driving demand

By the time Microsoft’s Xbox game console reaches New Zealand — sometime in spring, says the PR company that handles Microsoft’s games business; maybe by Christmas, says a games retailer interrogated by Computerworld — it will be about a year after buyers in the US and elsewhere laid their hands on it. And by then it will be nearly two-and-a-half years since Bill Gates “revealed” the Xbox’s specs to a California gamer conference. It looks like the wait has even got to the PR company: a press release last week that was clearly calculated to hike the hype talks about the Xbox as Microsoft’s “future-generation” video game system. It has been released somewhere in the world, hasn’t it, or is it all an elaborate con? One Computerworld staffer can report seeing one in action in Auckland early this year, although it may have been a pre-release example. Doubts about its readiness for prime time spring from the fact that the racing game being demonstrated kept crashing — into the wall. Maybe it was a driver problem.

.Net confusion

Staying with our friends at Microsoft, its leader Bill Gates recently told a media briefing in California that people still ask him what .Net is -- amazing, given that it's been two years since the concept was introduced. Now, before his local PR people rush to tell us, it is, ahem, hang on, to quote the man himself, "software to connect information, people, systems and devices". All clear.

ME ills

The HINZ (Health Informatics New Zealand) conference in Auckland this week will be New Zealand's biggest gathering of clinicians, CIOs, analysts and others whose work involves the application of IT in healthcare. A look at its official website for more details shows that the conference doesn't have a programme -- it has a program. Okay, so one of the keynote speakers, Dr James Hendrickson, hails from the land of fries and shakes, but this is a local conference for local people and should have a programme.

Surefire winner

Usually the odds are stacked against the punter. But the website run by Darwin-based IASbet recently offered odds and paid out on races that had been already run, reports Ananova.com. The "technical human error" was discovered when a punter looking to bet on the third race at a New Zealand meeting noticed that the first and second races were still open for betting. He resisted the urge to bet and reported it when he saw the glitch was unresolved a week later. IASbet chief executive Roger Smeed admits some payouts were made this way, adding that one punter who received $11,000 has promised to pay the money back.

Life and work

Claiming 18 million job resumés, recruitment giant TMP Worldwide is planning to create career-oriented internet communities that people will pay to join -- perhaps even dating or school reunion sites. Chief executive Andrew McKelvey has floated the idea of job seekers paying to join a service that puts them in touch with workers from a company they were applying to join, much like people pay dating services or school alumni sites.

Making an impact

Japanese researcher Yuji Sato claims to have invented a voice machine which makes people sound "calm and manly". Sato, of Tokyo-based Hosei University, says his system can help public speakers who struggle to make an impact on their audience. His machine takes samples of recorded speech and uses a series of "voice chromosomes" to change the pitch, volume or speed, turning a weak and feeble voice into a clear, authoritative tone. New Scientist reports Sato is working on a system to reproduce converted voices in real time. Etales refuses to speculate on which of our politicians might have needed such a machine on the election hustings or those who might already own a beta version.

Making it up

New York TV station Fox5 says US phone giant WorldCom created fictional executives to patch up customer service problems. Investigations into the bankrupt telco led to a mysterious "vice president of customer service" named Thomas Barton, who apparently wrote letters to many customers apologising for problems. However, a WorldCom employee told reporter Mary Garofalo that Barton did not exist and any staffer who revealed this would be fired. Garofalo, who began her investigations after WorldCom customers complained of being put on hold for three hours, failed to trace Barton and says she has been told of other fictitious executives. WorldCom officials declined to comment. One of our staffers, having returned from a month overseas with his internet connection now needing a long-forgotten password, his forlorn and lengthy waits for tech support make him wonder about the actual existence of the helpdesk at his ISP.

Frothy number

That McDonalds of the coffee world, Starbucks, has apparently found itself the victim of hoax coupons. Pranksters sent out emails offering free drinks to members of the public, forcing the Seattle-headquarted caffeine purveyor to run out of vanilla creme frappuccinos in Washington DC. Starbucks says the hoax soon came to light but admits the Washington outlets accepted the coupons for three hours because the time difference affected the arrival of the warning.

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