Crib snatcher

If you were wondering where former IDC-er Mark Cribbens has ended up, the truth can now be revealed: he's running UK cable TV company BSkyB. Forget all that nonsense about it being Rupert Murdoch's son...

If you were wondering where former IDC-er Mark Cribbens has ended up, the truth can now be revealed: he's running UK cable TV company BSkyB. Forget all that nonsense about it being Rupert Murdoch's son.

In name and deed

An individual “ID credential” suggested as a crucial part of e-governent’s authentication mechanism should, says the information tender to potential suppliers, contain “name(s), gender and date and place of birth”. The name(s) list, it adds helpfully, should include: “The name(s) shown on an official record such as a deed poll, previous names, aliases and names created by administrative error.”

We suspect most of us have a bunch of the last, albeit usually quickly corrected. Our Wellington correspondent says he has been on administrative record in various places as Steven Bell, Stephan Bell, Stephen Ball, D I Bell, Stephen Kjohn Bell (an unusually persistent one from Wellington City Council), F Bell (misheard on the phone) and Stephen Jones (a long explanation).

He wonders whether the most far-reaching mistaken identifier, Air New Zealand’s “Mrs J Bell”, also justifies a space for “gender created by administrative error”.

Snaul maul

Email conversation last week between a computer company contact and a Computerworld staffer:

“Will you be couriering the package or mauling it?" Quickly sent new message. "Sorry, I meant ‘mailing it’, of course.”

“You haven’t seen the way I wrap things.”

Which reminded the staffer (obviously in need of a refresher in keyboard skills) of a more social exchange, comforting a friend online over a recent misfortune: “Never mind: what does not kill you makes you stranger ... sorry, I mean ‘stronger’.”

“I think you were right the first time (sinister cackle).”

Far from plane sailing

With a spin that could kick start a jet engine, online marketing company Hitwise has declared the Freedom Air birthday giveaway competition a success. Freedom Air gave away 5000 free one-way tickets to the lucky few who could log on to the website, but in doing so managed to crash its connection with the outside world, meaning customers who were willing to pay for seats couldn't. One staffer managed to finally book his seat, but the process was so slow by the time he'd tried to pay online the seat had been sold to someone else.

Freedom to innovate

If you ever wondered where Microsoft gets the inspiration for its operating systems, an eagle-eyed poster at may have found the answer. Yes, those are system icons for Mac OS 9.

Meat the future

If, like most of us, you think

Matrix Revolutions is a dog with fleas and distemper, you may find The Meatrix a little more interesting, though its strongly ecological message may outshout its entertainment value. Interestingly reminiscent of a campaign for a certain brand of milk, it features Moo-pheus, a sunglassed cow who offers a blue pill and a red pill to a barnyard pig, Leo. Clever Flash animation reveals what's really happening to farming in the 21st century. Bunch of pigs.

Splitting hairs

Computerworld has given a fair amount of coverage to the controversial patenting of software and business methods, mainly because of the fear they may hinder innovation rather than help it, but sometimes you have to wonder about patents outside IT.

Shaver-makers Gillette and Schick are arguing in court over a patent granted for Gillette's three-bladed Mach3 razor. See, Schick has produced the four-bladed Quattro. “There’s nothing anywhere that says four blades,” Richard Rochford, a lawyer for Schick, said of Gillette’s patent that covers its best-selling Mach3. But John Nathan, a lawyer for Gillette, says any razor that includes any group of three blades would be covered by Gillette’s patent. He likens the Quattro to adding a fifth leg to a four-legged table. And of course, nobody has ever sat at a wobbly four-legged table, have they?

Flagging IP interest

Speaking of patents, some commentators believe the current boom will die away as the country catches up to the backlog in applications. Doug Johnson, director of the Venture Enterprise at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management, has said patents are a lagging indicator of the economy because it takes about two years to receive approval. Most of the patents awarded to firms in 2002 were applied for in the dot-com years of 1999 and 2000, he says, when companies were flush with cash to spend on IP protection.

Breathe in deeply, man

A last one on patents, we promise. The former commercial arm of the UK Energy Authority has developed a cannabis inhaler. AEA Technology filed a patent for an aerosol which would vaporise cannabis, getting in early as it is widely expected the government will legalise the use of cannabis for medical purposes. UK MPs are already about to downgrade the drug from class B (alongside speed and sedatives) to class C (with some tranquillisers and milder stimulants).

Edited by Mark Broatch.

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