The more-market approach

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen has donated $US13.5 million to help fund the search for extraterrestrial life.

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen has donated $US13.5 million to help fund the search for extraterrestrial life. The California-based SETI Institute, which is dedicated to the search for life beyond Earth, says the donation from Allen, who co-founded Microsoft with Bill Gates, will be used to create a radio-telescope array of more than 200 dishes that will monitor signals from space.

Far be it from us to impute devious motives to such generosity; but the thought must have crossed Allen's mind that there may be gazillions of intelligent entities out there, a proportion of them well into their "information age" and none of them has heard of Windows -- yet.

Swings and roundabouts

IBM's takeover of Logical CSI could bring another episode of the IBM-HP "musical buildings" saga. When IBM moved its Wellington headquarters from Featherstone Street to the Majestic Centre, HP moved into the Featherstone Street premises, part of the Parkroyal Hotel complex, vacating the Willis Street building later occupied by Logical CSI. So two years after HP's name replaced IBM's behind the Parkroyal, the IBM shingle may go up on the offices purpose-built for HP in the 1980s.

Virtual reality

The company that helped Tranz Link locate its trucks, and soon ferries and planes, officially launched its flagship EVS multimedia tracking system last week. IVistra, quietly seething about a story last week in the IT supplement of an Auckland daily paper that dragged up a court case with Virtual Spectator again (iVistra wunderkind Craig Meek used to work there), says it made a point of owning all the intellectual property to do with the product. It hopes to sell the EVS in time to utility, forestry and retail. And Meek says unequivocally that EVS stands for Enterprise Visibility System and never had anything to do with Ex-Virtual Spectator.

Ruined for life

A thought arises from the recent recording industry predictions of doom for themselves and the artists they support, as a result of "format-shifting" amendments to copyright law. If users swapping digital files for free will be the ruin of the music and video industries, then why are users who swap digital pornography for free seen as encouraging its production? Surely, like any "pirate", they're taking money out of the original producers' pockets, punishing them and helping to kill the trade? Or, conversely, are music pirates actually encouraging the production of more music to replace the stuff that's been stolen and feed a clearly huge demand?

Droughts and floods

And while we're talking about doom, we got to thinking about the recent floods in the lower North Island. It took a while to find a source for the words of the tragi-comic verse " 'We'll all be rooned', said Hanrahan", about farmers and unpredictable weather? A Google search -- look, Froogle's launched; who said it had had its day? -- found the John O'Brien verse here. They prayed for rain in a drought. But then ...

And every creek a banker ran,

And dams filled overtop.

"We'll all be rooned," said Hanrahan,

"If this rain doesn't stop."

Keeping mum

Speaking of dark online pursuits, we heard about an interesting online newsgroup exchange. Someone, having clearly been recognised, was being taken to task by a fellow visitor for being in an area where some transactions of dubious legality went on. Something about pots and kettles suggests itself. The apprehended one excused himself by saying he was looking for security advice. "I want to know how to protect my real address from spammers, hackers and identity thieves," he said. "The people here are the biggest bunch of paranoids on the net. If anyone knows how to be anonymous, they do." True to his word, there were several discussions on the newsgroup about how to "keep safe" from prying law-enforcement operatives, both the official censorial ones and the private-industry protectors of copyright. An individual calling himself "Dr Who" (who else?) advises that when signing up with one of the many companies who provide "anonymous" internet services you shouldn't, of course, use your credit card; do it all by postal money order. Put on gloves before handling the letter and envelope and don't lick the stamp, or they'll have your DNA. We think he's serious.

They're everywhere

Talking of giving away one's identity, or at least location, we know of one person who had gone to some effort to disguise his IP address and other information to make it seem as though he came from somewhere in central Europe, and had then adopted the pseudonym "Westie Bogan".

Nice ice

If you see a pink iceberg floating off the starboard bow, you've not necessarily overdone the rum ration. Danish artist Marco Evaristti has been at work. This is the man who let us judge the quality of sports shoes by the marks they made on a prostitute's behind and put goldfish in a (not working) blender bowl. Evaristti, or his webmaster, has that fantastically inventive English of enthusiastic creative foreign types. Random quote: "Will we choose to raise our voices and shout somebody's head off? Or will we watch in amazement as we encounter the beauty that can be added to beauty -- if we dare."

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