E-tales: Technology's revenge

What do Hewlett-Packard chief Carly Fiorina and Microsoft boss Bill Gates have in common? As Bloomberg news reported recently, they have both been hoist by their own petard.

What do Hewlett-Packard chief Carly Fiorina and Microsoft boss Bill Gates have in common? As Bloomberg news reported recently, they have both been hoist by their own petard.

Until the invention of emails and voice messages most conversations would be private and forgotten, but these days, thanks to IT, people are usually too busy to take calls, so messages are left and recorded everywhere. Thus during the Microsoft antitrust trial, Bloomberg reports, Gates’ emails “revealed a bullying side to his personality his press office had been keen to conceal”.

Now, Fiorina faces allegations from Walter Hewlett that she, er, convinced Deutsche Bank to switch its votes in the HP-Compaq merger with the offer of investment banking work. Striking the blow is a voice message from Fiorina to her chief financial officer Bob Wayman, saying the company had to “do something extraordinary” to convince Deutsche Bank and another major shareholder to vote for the merger.

PM's art attack

The above story featured on the humorous news website Worldgaffes.com, which picked up local coverage of PM and Arts Minister Helen Clark, painting herself into a corner by signing pictures and cartoons she had not produced.

The topic should have proven irresistible to Kiwi satire site www.thekumara.com, one would have thought, though it takes a minimalist, abstract approach, consisting solely of a paint-by-numbers work with the title "Der Meistersinger auf der Festspielwiese" (suggestions on the back of a postcard of the Reichstag, please).

Predictably those cheeky Young Nationals (how young are they really?) are doing their best to create mischief, by posting on their website a "self portrait" of Mona Helen and a few other familiar-looking works said to be by the Clarkster. It follows earlier claims from the Young Nats that "Helen Clark really is an artist", whose paintings can be found at www.wildlife-art-online.com. But this Helen Clark turns out to be a wildlife dabbler from the Peak District in northern England.

Buzz bites back

Two more case highlight the fun and dangers of having the same or similar names. Sir Gil Simpson may or may not be amused by a recent reference by Fortune magazine editor at large Andy Serwer to “Jade trying to go public”.

Serwer wasn't commenting on Christchurch-based software but rather a porn search engine, www.askjade.com. Simpson's Jade Software plans to list early in 2003.

Somewhat spookily, last week we reported that www.thebeehive.com belongs to a US software company and that local "thebeehive" sites were unregistered. On the same day, the government announced the launch of www.beehive.govt.nz to replace www.executive.govt.nz. The new site claims 20,000 policy documents, speeches and press releases going back to the mid-1990s.

In the dog.com box

Some of the websites that grabbed early and obvious, but non-brand, names are disappointing, and you get the feeling the site is just there for the sake of holding the name. But we are quite impressed with www.dog.com. The newly-imposed space limit on the free Hotmail account (see Hotmail users confronted with volume limit) had us looking for what is offered by other free email sites. If you fancy an email address like yourname@dog.com, have a look.

But we were distracted from probing into mailbox sizes on offer by the main content of the site, which points to topical stories about dogs in media around the globe. Our staffer felt for the woman in one tale who offered a humane home-finding service for unwanted dogs, and was deluged far beyond her expectations. She finished up driving a three-deck cattle truck containing 150 dogs around several US states chasing shelters who had offered to take the excess mutts. Predictably, she was arrested and faces a charge of cruelty to animals.

Access to some articles is slow, but this gives dog.com the opportunity to put up the appropriate wait message, "retrieving ..." Rather disappointingly, www.cat.com belongs to the Caterpillar tractor and engine company.

Well, hello ...

Hello! magazine has failed to win the rights to the Hello.com web address in another high-profile internet copyright dispute, according to the Guardian. The fawning celebrity gossip magazine wanted the site from Californian web company Pasadena and complained to the World Intellectual Property Organisation. Since July 2001 the Hello.com address has merely been used as a holding page to direct traffic to Pasadena's other sites, but it argued the term "hello" was generic and could not operate as a trademark in this case. Hello! was concerned Pasadena might sell Hello.com to a third party. The WIPO dismissed the claims, saying Pasadena was running a legitimate business from the site and that it could not adjudicate on what might happen in the future.

Microsoft blow to e-books

There will be no e-book awards at this year's Frankfurt Book Fair in October after Microsoft pulled funding from the project, just three years after being totally gung-ho on the idea. Winners of the awards have included Ed McBain, Joyce Carol Oates and Zadie Smith, says an Associated Press report. A Microsoft technology and development executive, a man with the fabulously appropriate name of Dick Brass, declared that, by 2020, "90% of everything you read will be delivered in an electronic form". Uh huh.

Email is good for you

Next time your boss asks you what you're doing, tell her that sending emails is good for you and reduces your stress. Texas University psychologists found that students who wrote about their emotions in emails were healthier than those who did not. Professor Erin Brown told Britain’s Daily Telegraph that talking and writing about problems stops people “internalising stress” and it is just the same with email. Honestly.

Park life

Phone giant Ericsson is trialling a system in Hull, in northern England, in which motorists can pay for car parking using their cellphone. Once parked, drivers dial into the system and either speak to a computer through a voice recognition system or send a text message. They specify the location, registration and parking time they want to buy and the information is registered on the parking scheme’s computer. The system is programmed to tell the motorist when their parking is about to expire and payment is taken directly from the drivers credit card or bank account. Traffic wardens can check motorists' payment by looking at the car registration on a handheld device. The trial is taking place in Hull City Council’s ten public car parks, but a council spokesman says there will always be alternatives for those sad souls without mobile phones.

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