E-tales: Burning questions

Will New Zealanders take to calling it 'Hewitt-Packard' now, particularly since a Delaware court threw out Walter Hewlett's lawsuit over misleading statements and shareholder coercion before the merger?

Will New Zealanders take to calling it "Hewitt-Packard" now, particularly since a Delaware court threw out Walter Hewlett's lawsuit over misleading statements and shareholder coercion before the merger? Or perhaps Hewlett-Paqard? We just hope the New HP doesn't end up like New Coca Cola, or New Labour, for that matter.

Pretty ditty

Sun wanted to celebrate its 20 years as a company in style. Sure, it could have had a rip-roaring party in Sydney for local execs, customers, journalists and analysts. It really, really could have. But instead the IT vendor commissioned a pleasant six-minute piece of classical music, premiering it at a music festival the company sponsors in the Yarra Valley near Melbourne. Sun assures us the piece will make it on to its website. Called "A Little Diary of Transformations" (though this may be changed), composer Richard Mills' mini concerto for clarinet and string quartet "celebrates the concept of transfiguration, organic growth and energy in three short contrasting segments", the first "built around an initial gesture which undergoes a series of dramatic metamorphoses, the second lyrical and contemplative and the third joyful and dancing". We suggest getting your Sun sales rep to whistle it.

Noblesse oblige

And speaking about Sun, any rumours you may have heard about Australasian head Jim Hassel winning a fabulous second prize in a raffle at the Musica Viva festival in the Yarra Valley are absolutely false. No, he in fact won first prize. This was an invite to the next year's music festival (which is run at the grand Domaine Chandon vineyard, with views, food, wine, etc to die for). Hassel of course immediately put it back into the draw. Or he would have if he was there; his marketing boss made an executive decision, knowing what a nice and fair fellow he is.

The brand's the thing

Why would you call a data storage distributorship Orange? Well, storage is built from components like disk and fibre-channel and management software, like the segments of an orange, explains Joel Norton of newly founded Xiotech agent Orange Data Storage.

It can be put together in modules and its physical units hidden from the user view, like putting oranges in a box and boxes on a pallet … Besides, Norton says, it’s a cheerful, attention-getting colour and makes for economical keepsakes for prospective clients. Instead of branded desk toys, paperweights or calculators in everyone’s place at a seminar, “we can just hand out oranges”.

Storage rival EMC gave out boxed polished steel yo-yos at a recent event. Is it a good idea, we wonder, to associate the concept of “up, down, up, down” with data storage? An EMC man explains that the company’s storage needs so little maintenance “that you’re going to have a lot of time on your hands”. Our staffer reports that the “cool” yo-yo is a hit with his teenage daughter. Oranges don’t excite her a lot.

Dead ducks

"You want that smiley face in the bottom of the bath." Radio frequency identification specialist Chris Hook's slightly odd metaphor for the customer's response to achieving the "sweet spot" at the low point of a complex cost curve. He did a drawing of it, which we would have reproduced here to help you (and us) figure our just what he was getting at, but our reporter sadly didn't take it away.

Spam scam

Have the police taken to spam to spreading warnings of ATM fraud? E-tales, like fifteen million others, received several copies of an email warning, purportedly to be originally "from a friend in the police in Auckland". The message warned of fraudsters putting plastic "sleeves" into ATM card machines, preventing the ATM from reading the strip.

"Meanwhile, someone behind you watches as you tap in your number ... Eventually, you give up, thinking the machine has swallowed your card and you walk away." The thieves then remove the plastic sleeve and card and empty your account. Almost word for word, the original text of this appeared on April 5 in a message forum. Then, last week, a very slightly re-written version of this, dated April 30, appeared as a news story on a South African website. The Auckland Police had never heard of it, but then they would say that ...

Bottle bots

Robots really are taking over the world. A Warwick University report says the UK installed 1941 new robots in 2001, the largest ever one-year increase, taking Britain’s grand bot total to 13,500. They have their uses: in Florida, engineering student Jean-Philippe Clerc has created a robotic barman, called Abor, standing for autonomous beer-opening robot. The device runs along a bar top, steadies the bottle, places the opener under a cap and lifts it before backing off. Made from 150 parts, including 20-plus metres of wiring, Abor took four months to build. Clerc says he went through 134 beers "for calibration and testing purposes", though he personally prefers wine and champagne.

Football drunks and droids

Meanwhile, preparations are underway for the annual Robocup soccer tournament in Japan in June. Swedish scientist Peter Nordin has created “Priscilla”, a human-sized robot built around a plastic skeleton with human-like feet, complete with toe bones.

Professor Nordin of the Chalmers University of Technology has created smaller 60cm-high siblings Elvis and Elvina, to compete in smaller robot leagues. And adding to soccer World Cup fever, Budweiser is letting British boozers take a world cup penalty in its virtual shootout promotion in some UK bars. Players will wear a virtual reality headset, visor and foot sensor that takes them to a 360-degree virtual stadium where they are invited to beat a computer-generated goalie. Participants will also face the reality of pressure facing their real-world counterparts, because their efforts will be displayed on large plasma screens for the rest of the bar to watch, reports news website ananova.com.

Laptop life

People use their laptops in the funniest places, says Intel. The processor producer surveyed 2400 users and found laptops have been used at weddings, funerals, in coal mines, on the top of grain towers, on a Grand Canyon hiking trail, while riding a horse, while riding a cow and even while building a chicken coop. More normally, the survey found, 81% of users have used the laptop while watching TV, 60% while still in bed, 54% while eating, 48% while undressed or in underwear (including one E-tales contributor, who surfs on his Acer while wearing only boxer shorts, can vouch for that), 41% while as a passenger in a car, 39% while outdoors and 20% while on a bus or train.

Feel the noise

Massachusetts Institute of Technology believes people will be able to add emphasis and emotion to their call by squeezing their phones. Its media mab, reports ananova.com, is developing phones that record the strength of the users’ squeeze and transmits it as a vibration to the recipient. When users grip the phone, they depress tiny speakers and pressure sensors that vibrate against the skin. Squeezing with a certain finger will even transmit a vibration to the recipient's corresponding finger, the lab says. Researcher Angela Chang told New Scientist that early trials have created a new form of expression and that "vibrolanguages" could one day be as popular as text messaging, as people sometimes want to communicate things without bystanders realising. We have no idea what they mean.

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