E-tales: Absolute rap

You know you're getting old when the ceremonial opening to a Nokia telecommunications conference consists of a Singaporean music group called Urban Xchange who created a song specially for the conference. Their style can only be described as 'lounge rap'.

You know you're getting old when the ceremonial opening to a Nokia telecommunications conference consists of a Singaporean music group called Urban Xchange who created a song specially for the conference. Their style can only be described as "lounge rap".

Quote of the day has to go to the lead singer: "Nokia is the bomb, please believe that." We must hope the share market doesn't feel the same way.

Poor advice

That bastion of sound investment advice, the Public Trust, doesn't usually miss a trick. But the "crown entity" (we swear there's something sci fi about that term) may want to think about its link to an outdated version of Wired magazine's Wired Index (maintained by investment management company Investec Asset Management) that includes disgraced energy trading giant Enron.

Enron's own site is topped by a classic piece of marketing optimism: "Enron is in the midst of restructuring its business with the hope of emerging from bankruptcy as a strong and viable, albeit smaller, company." (Now what was that crack they used to make about how you make a successful small business in New Zealand?) That's not to mention the Index listing of Vodafone AirTouch, the wireless arm of the world's largest mobile-phone operator. Vodafone Group in May posted a £13.5 billion loss in its preliminary yearly financial report, saying this was primarily due to write-offs and forecasting double-digit revenue growth for its current fiscal year.

I said no

Those who weren't planning on attending this year's CommunicAsia conference (in Singapore from June 17) should have filled in the media accreditation form. The last box read: "I'm not coming to CommunicAsia". Perhaps there is a website for other events you have no plans to attend? Are we offending companies by not checking their "not coming to your event" websites?

Ugly is as ugly does

With the World Cup approaching its really gritty stage, every female around appears to have rediscovered the plastic action-hero cuteness of a certain English footballer married to a certain pop singer. If you're sick of your other half watching games involving this allegedly handsome captain even more avidly than you, there is an antidote, in the form of www.uglyfootballers.com. The all-time not-beautiful England XI appear here, while the unlovely 2002 World Cup XI can be grimaced at here.

Spinal tap

The merger of Telstra and Clear may have “created synergies in the backbone network”, to quote a background paper from TelstraClear, but it created confusion, albeit briefly, in the company’s internal telephone switching. Asking to be put through to a TelstraClear representative early last week, a Computerworld staffer was told by the receptionist “I can’t put you through because the database is down and I can’t get his extension number. Do you know it?” “I know his mobile number,” said our man; “I’ll dial that”. “No, give it to me,” the helpful receptionist replied, “and I can put you through.”

Telstraclear spokesman Ralph Little said the company was last week going through a process of integrating the various LANs belonging to Telstra and Clear and there had been a glitch of about 45 minutes.

“The Paradise Net platform is [also] currently being integrated into the ClearNet platform,” Little said, these being, of course, the ISP operations of the two companies. This raised a brief red flag with our staffer who had been experiencing problems with the ClearNet mail server used through the Saturn-Paradise cable network. The problem turned out to be a misconfiguration in his firewall and nothing to do with technical problems in the TelstraClear merger. We do hope “synergy” on the core network works out for TelstraClear, and for its users.

Kid's play

What's that the Jesuits say about "Give me a child until he is seven and I will show you the man"? ANZ has launched Beany Island, which uses cartoon characters to get children used to money and banking. The bank has since February offered its Beanstalk account for the under-12s. Littl'uns get a "fun pack" when they open their account but -- oh to be young again -- no transaction or monthly base fees.

Confirms ANZ head of group marketing Robin Hickman in a canned quote: "We hope that Beany Island and the other educational material that is given to our ANZ Beanstalk customers will get them into good savings and money management habits from a young age."

See? Those savings books are so outdated. The site even offers kids savings help, calculating that if you had $100 and saved $10 a week it would take 19.78 weeks or 138.45 days to save up for a $300 bike. "How long is 19.78 weeks, dad? Are we there yet?" Visit the Beany Island website.

1984 on hold

The UK government has temporarily shelved plans to let public bodies snoop on private communications, admitting it "blundered" into the issue and that more consultation needs to take place before new proposals are presented to parliament. The plans would have given sweeping rights to 24 public bodies, ranging from the Home Office to local councils and the food standards agency, to monitor private communications such as mobile phones and emails. The plan, to be monitored by the Orwellian-sounding Office of Surveillance Commissioners, would have extended surveillance powers under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, which are currently restricted to the police, the intelligence agencies, Customs and Excise and the Inland Revenue.

Apart from raising the blood pressure of privacy and civil liberties bodies, there were concerns that the Home Office, the government department in charge of the plans (motto: "Building a safe, just and tolerant society"), would try to buy off opponents with concessions. Even more worryingly, a classified police manual passed to the Guardian suggested surveillance techniques would be kept so secret that criminal prosecutions might be abandoned to prevent their disclosure.

Lights out

The successful “teleporting” of a light beam across a laboratory in Australia has implications for computing and communications (see Teleported light beam raises hopes of quicker, cooler, safer ICT).

But for readers of science fiction and viewers of SF films, teleportation has a reputation worse than that of genetic "engineering" in the Green Party. There’s The Fly (the original 1959 movie and its 1986 remake), where a teleportation experiment got mixed up and gave a human a giant fly’s head (and a fly a tiny human head, squealing for help). “Be afraid, be very afraid”, said the poster for the 1986 version.

And in printed fiction there is the tale of the man of the remote future awaiting his girlfriend's arrival on the teleport-train, to be confronted by a slobbering purple anteater. A fault in the mechanism had reassembled her atoms wrongly and she was only recognisable by the remants of her gold-coloured dress.

Then there is the chilling remark of the physicist who perfected teleportation and naturally had qualms about unleashing it on the world. He foresaw unimaginative armed forces using it to instantly shift armies, ships, aircraft and munitions. Whereas the most efficient thing to do, he said laconically, would be simply "to exchange a cubic centimetre of the floor at enemy headquarters with a cubic centimetre of the interior of the sun." In an ICT context, quantum teleportation would certainly lend a whole new perspective to viruses, denial of service attacks and firewalls. Never mind getting a live bug in your web server or a real piece of sun in the middle of your microsystems.

Snap happy

The imaging industry is planning a global digital printing network, the Common Picture eXchange Environment, which will let digital camera users make prints anywhere in the world, says ananova.com. The web-based framework would let consumers transmit digital photos from their PCs or ATM-style kiosks. Eastman Kodak, Fujifilm and HP are gung ho. The first step will be to create an open technological standard for the network. Oh dear.

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