May 2009 Archives

IT workers finish high in beer league

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Downtime was surprised to see that the latest contender in the beer Olympics comes from the IT department. With journalists the undoubted kings of alcohol excesses it was reassuring to see that the people Downtime writes for have similar issues. Downtime however has that old excuse "people relax when you drink and you get better stories" to rely on whereas failed IT projects and drinking probably have a high correlation coefficient. Maybe IT managers should be breathalysed when driving projects.

Up a creek without a GPS

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Sat nav users could find themselves up several creeks without a paddle soon because it seems the satellite network that makes it all happen, could be falling to pieces.


US officials say the 20-year-old global positioning satellite (GPS)network is in dire need of repairs and upgrades.


Let's hope that the GPS network is too important for the US to allow to fail, because otherwise lots of people will be in hot water.


The UK's predilection for roundabout every few miles and even yards, is likely to result in millions of people going in circles with no sat navs telling them when to exit.

Scented gas poor substitute for frozen dessert

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Online shopping is a bit of a lucky dip it seems, with nearly half of online grocery shoppers getting the wrong goods.


OK, 45% of those surveyed by Which? got more or less the right thing, but 15% ended up with the completely wrong goods.


Getting a can of vanilla air freshener instead of vanilla ice-cream could really put shoppers off doing it online.


Anyone who has tasted vanilla air freshener will tell you it's a poor substitute.

Wolfram Alpha calculates the Satan formula

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Wolfram Alpha, the world's latest search engine, uses clever maths to tell you things you don't already know. In the name of research, Downtime asked Wolfram Alpha about Satan. Apparently Satan can be represented by a mathematical formula.




Google goes off-road for arse-end of UK

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Not satisfied with driving round UK roads and photographing almost every household in the land Google is now turning to three wheels. Google wants to show people much more by using tricycles rather than cars. Downtime thinks that Google should consider using robotic insects so it can see the arse end of everywhere.

Fruitless attempt to rob internet cafe hard to swallow

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A US teenager has been charged with attempted armed robbery at an internet café, but may also be charged with destroying evidence after he ate his "weapon".

All police were left to photograph was the empty peel of a banana the would-be robber held under his shirt when demanding money from staff at the internet café.

John Szwalla was overpowered by brave web surfers, but downed the banana before police arrived. Perhaps he was planning to a-peel the charge for lack of evidence. 

Everest, outer space, so what I twitter on the toilet

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It's amazing how Twitter has caught the imagination of the world. We now have an astronaut tweeting from space and a man tweeting from the slopes of Mount Everest. What next? Imagine it, people will risk life and limb to achieve fame but it will not be good enough to be the first person to swim to the bottom of Loch Ness and return on the back of the monster unless you have been twittering all the way through it.

Online expense system could be government money spinner

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Calls for an online system that puts all MP expenses claims on the web in real-time could be a money spinner for a government desperate for cash. This could be more popular than Google. They could call it Gravy Train. Imagine being able to see what MPs are spending your money on in real time.


They could sell adverts on a website with this sort of information on it.

Porn is unhealthy for you cyber well-being

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Downtime was surprised to hear that pornography can threaten your online security indirectly. Apparently too many people use porn names for password. But because  people are sharing these names, which are a combination of your first pets name and the name of the first street you lived on, criminals can work get hold of passwords. We are going to carry out an experiment using the name Buckingham Corgi.

EC wants you to control your privacy

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As governments and companies find more ways to exploit smart cards, especially the RFID-enabled ones, the easier it is for them to find out all about you, your habits and your movements around the world.

Some (all?) of this may be no-one's business but yours, and the European Commission thinks so too. It has just passed a "strong recommendation" that consumers control what information goes onto the chips and how it is used. Anyone wanting to exploit the undoubted benefits of RFID should take note.

The full text is here.

Second life will not be forever

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Medical students at Imperial College London will get to train in a virtual hospital where it will not matter if they make mistakes and kill their patients. The college says the virtual hospital provides a way of learning from mistakes, but training without consequences could be a problem when students feel nothing about losing a patient when they start practising in the real world.

If it aint broke, don't fix it

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Shoppers at a hundred Tesco stores were forced to stand in long queues because, you guessed it, they were upgrading the software on the checkout tills in 100 locations. Tesco said the glitch affected only a minority of stores, but clearly that it not where its computer woes ended. Tesco was fined £31,000 for selling out-of-date food in three stores. Perhaps an upgrade of the company's stock tracking system would be in order.

The unacceptable face of social networking sites

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Branding exercises can sometimes go wrong. Witness German pharmaceuticals firm Bayer and its revolutionary cough mixture, "Heroin"; and the public outrage at Woolworth's incomprehensible decision to market a bed range aimed at 6 year old girls under the name "Lolitta".

So it was with mixed feelings Downtime found his picture on a colleague's social networking account. The name? Twitpic.

Monks get on the information superhighway

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The patience of a set of Monks has been pushed to the limit by a dodgy dial up internet connection. Trappist monks from Wales have now moved to a wireless broadband service. Downtime worries what this will mean to their fidelity to monastic life with all those virtual temptations. Mind you it might take their minds off killing wild animals. That's what Trappists do isn't it?

Government's web 2.0 stunt backfires

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Downtime is wondering how long the government's attempts to appear groovy by getting involved in web 2.0 media are going to last. The petition calling on the prime minister to resign has now been signed by 53,544 concerned citizens. Downtime wonders how many were prompted by the PM's appearance on YouTube discussing MPs' expenses (46,760 views).

Man wastes time living in paradise

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Downtime was wondering what all the fuss was about with the British chap that won the so-called "best job in the world". Ben Southall will be paid £70,000 to live on Hamilton Island in the northern state of Queensland and will explore beaches, sail and scuba dive. What's so special about that? You can do exactly the same on second life from the comfort of your own home.

Wanted: undercover security consultants with news-gathering skills

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News that a consultant went undercover at a financial services firm to test out their security was shocking. He was able to set up in a meeting room and through basic deception gained access to secure rooms. Downtime is hoping someone will do that here, so long as they chip in with a few stories for the website.

Ride out the recession on a Twitter and a prayer

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Twitter is slowly taking over the world - it even has God on its side. Cardinal Sean Brady has told his flock to pray via text message, Twitter and e-mail. He wants young people in particular to send "friends and family an occasional Twitter or text to say that you have prayed for them". The cardinal says the new technologies will help families and friends stay together through difficult economic times.

Sutton council creates virtual world for youngsters

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Young people in Surrey will soon be able to walk into their own virtual world, developed by the local council in an effort to improve their confidence. Sutton council is proposing to create a "walk-in" virtual world which aims to "give young people the confidence to make the best of their lives and have a positive impact on their peers and their local community". These young people don't know they're born. In Downtime's day all they had to improve their confidence was a carrot and a lump of coal.

Programmer exposes plans to quit via computer game

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A software developer in Australia used a computer game to resign from his job. The man created a video game that contained embedded messages which revealed his intentions. Much like Super Mario Brothers, as contestants moved through the game different messages were revealed. He even put the game on the internet. Downtime worries about techies sometimes. IT workers will only ever make it to the top in business if they develop better communication skills. IT managers should not put requests for budgets to the board via level six of Sonic the Hedgehog.

Sticky fingerprints come in handy for day nursery entry

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Fingerprint scanner access is no longer confined to highly sensitive military installations, but has now been installed in a day nursery in south London. All parents and members of staff will have to use a fingerprint scanner before gaining access to the nursery premises. The measure, which implies there is a real danger of some sort, is aimed at giving parents peace of mind, according to the day nursery.

Antenna search brings tears to mannequin's eyes

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Laerdal has created a mannequin for training paramedics that sheds real tears. Called SiMan, the mannequin has a 3G connection for connecting to medical devices. Downtime didn't get a chance to ask the manufacturer where the antenna was and how to retune it.

Bang up the board and let politicians run the country

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Research from Websense has revealed a massive problem waiting to happen in the UK. Apparently, 30% of people interviewed in a recent survey said that CEOs and board members should be put in prison when their customer data is leaked. If this was put this into action, half of the civil service would be doing porridge. It would certainly cut the government wage bill, but who would run the country? The politicians? Imagine the expense claims.

Religious groups cannot face truth of Faith Fighters

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A computer game that pits holy figures from various religions against each in a fight to the death has peaceful aims, according to its makers. The Faith Fighter game has raised objections from Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and Christian representatives. Was the maker not aware that religious groups are pacifist? The game's maker, Molleindustria, says the purpose of the computer duel is to encourage gamers to reflect on how sacred representations are often used to fuel or justify conflicts between people.

Facebook puts Swiss woman in the firing line

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A woman in Switzerland was sacked for using Facebook while off sick with a Migraine headache. Apparently, she claimed she was unable to use a computer due to her headache, and had to sit in a darkened room. Downtime is officially warning skivers not to use social media while feigning illness. Stick to watching Kilroy like most UK sicknotes.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from May 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

April 2009 is the previous archive.

June 2009 is the next archive.

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