E-tales: No problem

Xtra's Customer Care helpline, January 30: "Currently all Xtra customers, both [sic] JetStart, JetStream and dial-up connections, will be experiencing difficulties with their passwords. In addition, you may also experience a 'line is busy' error when connecting ... Otherwise there are no known problems on the Xtra network."

No problem

Xtra’s Customer Care helpline, January 30: “Currently all Xtra customers, both [sic] JetStart, JetStream and dial-up connections, will be experiencing difficulties with their passwords. In addition, you may also experience a ‘line is busy’ error when connecting … Otherwise there are no known problems on the Xtra network.”

No, really

And on the Xtra homepage the same day: “Xtra Network Status Summary: Currently there are no known problems on the Xtra network.”

Am yow serious?

If you were too busy to check on her progress, Brit email order bride Kay Hammond attracted two bids over the reserve of £250,000, one from the appropriately named Ben Webb, in return for her hand in marriage. As we noted in last week’s E-Tales, Hammond, 24, managing director of Birmingham web-design company Tamba Internet, said she was “too busy” to find a partner. Hammond, who gave her height as 5ft 4in and her statistics as 34-28-34 (she didn’t say if she had a Black Country accent), got electronically betrothed via auction site QXL after eBay turned her down. On QXL’s site she related her plight: “So often I have complained to my friends, family and colleagues that I never have the time to meet any men. I thought that by creating an online auction I would be able to reach as many men as possible and hopefully prove that the internet is not full of cyber-geeks, [that] there are normal people out there.” Now she has a choice.

Well, we’ll see. She has been briefly interviewed by British media but is saving herself for the big occasion: she has apparently put her signature to a deal with the Mail on Sunday.

Does your TLA use ATM?

Computerworld’s interview with British/Canadian telecommunications entrepreneur Sir Terry Matthews ranged over a variety of topics from asynchronous transfer mode (ATM) as a reliable basis for internet links to the use of broadband digital video to monitor users of automatic teller machines (ATMs).

Thus it marked one of the rare, but doubtless destined to become increasingly frequent, occasions when an interviewee uses the same three-letter abbreviation in the same interview to refer to two completely different things. This is when you know the spread of the “TLA” is out of control.

TLAs used to be more or less the preserve of the computer industry, but they’re now being used rampantly in down-to-earth organisations like town councils — or territorial local authorities (TLAs) as they like to call themselves.

Bowled and caught

Telstra has admitted rigging an internet poll on whether it offered good value online, but says the action wasn’t officially sanctioned. Consumers across the ditch were asked by ZDNet Australia if Telstra’s BigPond internet service provided value for money. Initially the vast majority of a few antsy people naturally weighed in on the negative. But a short time later the “yes” vote had leaped well ahead of the “no” vote. ZDNet traced the patriotic surge back to Telstra, which says it is looking into the matter but insists was definitely not a “Telstra-endorsed initiative”.

Lou bows out of Big Blue

So Lou Gerstner’s longtime heir apparent, Samuel Palmisano, is to be the company’s next head honcho from March 1. Once tipped as a potential replacement for Apple’s Gil Amelio, but instead groomed by fellow Catholic schoolboy Gerstner, “Big Sam” Palmisano, 50, a 29-year Big Blue veteran, is apparently a “quintessential regular guy” according to Doug Garr, a former IBM speechwriter, in his 1999 book “IBM Redux”. “He didn’t need someone to pack his underwear for a business trip.”

The allegedly affable, 6-foot 2-inch-tall co-captain of his college football team, Palmisano came from relatively humble beginnings, being the son of a Baltimore mechanic. But one ex-IBM exec said he was a sometimes impatient individual who has (wow!) snapped pencils during dull meetings and dismissed rah-rah retreats at fancy locations. He won’t lack for financial incentive. His 1999 salary and bonus apparently totalled $US1.35 million, and at the end of 1999 he had more than $US21 million in “restricted and performance-based” stock.

Let’s see how closely he follows in Big Lou’s footsteps. In a speech to a Catholic university last year, Gerstner talked about science and technology speeding ahead of moral and ethical thinking:

“So the next generation of leaders must reach enlightened, inclusive decisions based on nothing even remotely resembling narrow national or intellectual traditions … In my opinion, leadership is not learned. It’s not a skill you can teach or study. Leadership is a response to a stimulus. And it comes from within. So if you are blessed with the gifts that leadership requires, please don’t be shy, and don’t be afraid. Your kind are in short supply.”

For the truly odd collector

Pieces of mail quarantined during the anthrax scare in the US are being auctioned on the internet, according to Ananova.com. One man has apparently already sold six pieces of irradiated mail on eBay for a few dollars each. The man, Dr Z, said among the items he sold were a returned cheque and a credit card letter. Another man said he sold an irradiated flyer from American Express for about $40. The items were among about 800,000 pieces of post quarantined inside the mail processing facility in New Jersey between October and December. The mail was irradiated and placed in plastic bags for delivery to recipients, though the US Postal Service advised people to throw the bag away if they felt uneasy about opening it. Be quick. Last time we looked there were still at least half-a-dozen listings.

Have I got a deal for you

US watchdog the US Securities and Exchange Commission has stung thousands of gullible punters with fake stock market offers.

The bogus site set up by the SEC — for a new company promising sure-fire investment returns — attracted 125,000 hits in two days.

Naïve investors were lured firstly by a bogus press release extolling the virtues of fictional biological defence firm McWhortle Enterprises. The release invited interested parties to browse for further information — including glowing testimony from fabricated analysts — via a special website. However, those who clicked a link to request information on how to invest were greeted with this message: “If you responded to an investment idea like this you could get scammed!”

According to financial newspaper website FT.com, the SEC says it is already planning to repeat the exercise.

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