E-tales: Out of touch

Telecom's certainly annoyed some people in its time. Fresh from charging Auckland businessman James Storrie a $337.50 'penalty for being an arrogant bastard', as detailed on the front page of last Wednesday's NZ Herald, the telco is being satirised in a scurrilous document currently circulating the internet.

Telecom's certainly annoyed some people in its time. Fresh from charging Auckland businessman James Storrie a $337.50 "penalty for being an arrogant bastard", as detailed on the front page of last Wednesday's NZ Herald, the telco is being satirised in a scurrilous document currently circulating the internet.

A spoof guide section of the phone book called called "Other Telecom Charges", which is understood to have been created in Auckland, offers advice as to what "Attitudes and Behaviour" to expect when making queries about bills. "When you call us to point out what dip-shits you think we have been, you have the right to a wide range of attitudes and behaviours," it says. "Our operators are trained in recognising these and making snap judgements as to how much we will charge you for your call ... In fact our operators are trained in so many other aspects of psychological warfare and one day, we may even train them in customer service."

A raft of charges is listed. As well as "Being an arrogant bastard, $337.50", there's:

Being an utter [expletive deleted] $750.00

Being a slightly uppity dork $180.00

Being a condescending shit $125.50.

Questioning our parentage $75.00

Questioning our sexual preference $60.50

Mentioning a bodily orifice and our bill $95.00

Smirking $25.00.

And you were wondering why it still makes pretty healthy profits.

Move over

We hear that Wellington IT company E-Solutions New Zealand has changed its name to Zero One after two years of confusion with esolutions, the venture between Telecom, EDS and Microsoft.

Now there's ItchyFeet, a site created by Wellington IT contractor David Preece that aims to help entrepreneurs and techies anonymously make contact with each other and further their careers. But we wonder how long it is before Preece considers changing its name to avoid confusion with Itchy Feet, an Auckland-based online travel agent with links to the New World supermarket chain.

It's also been noted that pipfruit marketer Enza is now using the Enzalink brand and dot-com URL www.Enzalink.com. www.Enza.com is occupied by a Wisconsin skincare company. Enza.net, meanwhile, is owned by a Swiss resident, and Enza.org by one Miss Enza Hadfield, who lives in Richmond-upon-Thames in Surrey. Perhaps she's one tough lady.

Yes, er, minion

The Ministry of Education's commitment to equality should never be questioned, particularly under the current administration in Helengrad, sorry, Wellington. Chasing up a story on the ministry's Laptops for Principals scheme, a consultant employed by the government said the ministry would not comment on it until its communications department was ready to issue a media release to all. Asked if the story was true, in typical Sir Humphrey fashion a Min of Ed mandarin said: "You might like to think that." Our reporter quipped back: "But I couldn't possibly comment."

Gotcha.com

How many of you perused Coincidencedesign.com, the US company we reported on last week that purported to research the background of the perfect woman to arrange that "coincidental" meeting?

We've got some bad news.

The site's registered address is in Dallas, Texas, when the company is based in Chicago and the phone number goes to a car dealership in California. The website's contact, Jason Bourne, is also made up. To top off the hoax, the crowd that claim the web design for the site, Saber Works, also lists The Sensation Zone on its CV. A random quote: "The Sensation Zone is, essentially, a place where you can go to have sex with complete strangers. Think of it as a fitness centre where, instead of exercising, patrons engage in intercourse."

Freelance writer David Cassel, who is currently writing a book on internet hoaxes, relates the tale in an article "Rent-a-Stalker Online" published on the alternet.org website. It can also be accessed through the www.snopes.com Urban Legends Archive. How long, though, before someone sets up the real thing?

Censoring the critics

The New York State attorney general has charged that Network Associates is violating the consumer's First Amendment right to free speech because language pinned to most of the vendor's software diskettes demands that no benchmarking or public reviews be done without Network Associates' permission. The state is demanding Network Associates renounce the wording or face a court fight. NA is resisting so far, saying it wants to ensure reviewers have the most up-to-date versions of software. Yuh huh. Even Microsoft hasn't tried that trick.

Hoist, e-wards

If you open your mouth, make sure your foot is nowhere near. In an email last month Bill Gates told the Microserf multitudes to take the issue of security seriously. "Our products should emphasis security right out of the box, and we must constantly refine and improve that security as threats evolve,” he said. He called the concept Trustworthy Computing, with capital letters.

So of course doubters to the vision have created a domain name – Trustworthycomputing.com -- which redirects to a Google search that links to lists of stories that highlight Microsoft’s security blunders.

Dial tone

The UK government is trialling e-voting in a bid to boost the turnout of younger voters. Some 30 local bodies will pilot schemes in May, using text messaging, touch telephones, digital TV and home computers. The Labour government believes more extensive use of e-voting could lead to an e-enabled general election in 2006.

However, controversy has erupted in the UK over claims that Britain’s biggest-ever TV phonepoll was a “sham”. Almost nine million people -- up to one million a minute -- voted in this month's Pop Idol talent quest, with backers of the loser Gareth Gates, 17, claiming they could not get through and make their phone vote. But some supporters of victor Will Young said they could not vote either.

Poll organiser Telescope UK claimed despite all protests that the vote -- which used 28,000 lines from British Telecom that had previously being used in other TV shows such as Big Brother and Stars in Their Eyes -- was a great success.

Mixed messages

Women in Poland are using a mobile text message service that warns them when not to have sex. Those signing up for the alerts service put in their personal details and phone number on the firm’s website www.supersms.pl. In return they receive three-monthly text messages telling them when they are most or least fertile. This so-called rhythm method of contraception, which is highly unreliable, is popular in Poland, which is 90% Catholic.

Honey, I've got news ...

And those keen to avoid the patter of tiny booties may want to avoid using cellphones, as radiation from them may boost fertility. New Scientist magazine reports tests in England that show microwaves similar to those emitted by mobile phones boost the fertility of laboratory worms. The research does not suggest mobile phones can effect human fertility, but experts say the results are potentially far-reaching. A $26m UK research programme looking at the health risks associated mobile phones has called for further information on the Nottingham University findings.

Pigeon English

And cellphone masts, say UK pigeon fanciers, confuse their birds. Breeders in Tow Law, County Durham are trying to stop mobile telco Orange from erecting another tower, saying since three earlier towers were erected last year the number of lost birds has doubled. The fanciers say they have no proof but want the matter investigated, believing the new masts affecting the birds’ homing instincts.

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