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Skype removes offensive emoticons

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Skype has removed a selection of its emoticons for fear that they had the "potential to offend some users."

Icons including a "smiley" faces showing the middle finger as well as emoticons (wtf) and (fubar) have been removed by Microsoft.

The one which confuses me is a pair of women's legs walking in high heels? Is Microsoft suddenly becoming feminist?

But the answer came in Skype's replacement emoticons which it has introduced recently. One in particular (shielddeflect) depicts Captain America and his shield which has clearly just rescued the damsel in distress from the perving eyes of the internet. 

Pirates versus Plumbers

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With a childhood spent mostly being a plumber, rescuing a princess from a castle, Downtime has learned a few things. Mostly it has learned that being a plumber and rescuing a princess from a castle can be a lonely experience.

It has now also learned that backing the plumber may have been a mistake, as the soaring popularity of role-playing "Mr Right" games among single, professional Japanese women, would indicate that a man who can fix your taps is not the dream ticket we always assumed it was.

A typical scenario in these "romance sims", according to Reuters in Tokyo, is that after being saved from kidnapping, you discover you're the daughter of the prime minister and your life is in imminent danger. You are introduced to a handful of handsome bodyguards and must choose who will protect you 24 hours a day. 

After choosing their knight in shining armour, the player then develops the relationship through choices they make in the storyline.

If the title of one game is anything to go by - Pirates in Love - it would seem nautical scoundrels are very much in vogue in Japan. Other titles include Seduced in the Sleepless City and Be My Princess. 

Downtime is left to assume the Japanese translation of 50 Shades of Grey did not live up to expectations.

Teasing a frog with a smartphone

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Inspect-a-Gadget investigated what objects you could use to operate your smartphone back in February, and deduced that in addition to a finger, you could also use your nose and your tongue.

And apparently a capacitive touchscreen will also recognise a frog's tongue, as it must have similar electrical conductivity as a human, which is the reason why touchscreens do not work while wearing gloves.

Watch what happens show a frog juicy bugs on the screen of a smartphone - would you be brave to tease this amphibian?

Best way to highlight issues that IT departments face? Plastic dinosaurs of course.

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Networks First has 'produced' a short video aimed at highlighting one of the issues that IT departments are currently facing. I say 'produced' because its one man, one camera, one voice and three plastic dinosaurs, not exactly Avatar is it?

The Jurassic Business Park premiss is clearly the brainchild of a zany forward thinking IT professional, that or a six year old, not entirely sure yet. 

Networks First hasn't just rushed into this, oh no, it's even created Twitter accounts for their video stars. Firstly, the CEO who is imaginatively named Mr Rex, then head of IT, Simmons and finally Lewis, who doesn't have a title.  

Anyway, here is the video:

If only RIM had seen this a week ago the BlackBerry service outage may well have been avoided. 

Dramatic Dr Who revelation: the TARDIS runs on Windows XP

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Dr Who conspiracy theorists who have long believed the mysterious time traveller to be a front for British military intelligence have firm proof of their suspicions today.

The UK Ministry of Defence has quietly published a tender for "TARDIS support" on the Official Journal of the European Union.

The tender dramatically reveals that "TARDIS hardware operates Windows XP/Server 2003 and VMS operating systems" with onboard software applications that include the Weapon Assessment Software Package (WASP).

WASP was apparently first developed when the TARDIS was under the aegis of a later, less popular Doctor, possibly those played by Colin Baker or Sylvester McCoy during the Doctor's fallow years of television decline before the show's regeneration in the early 21st century - suggesting perhaps that an ill-advised militaristic design modication to the TARDIS was responsible for the doctor being taken off air.

The evidence is clear in the tender, issued by Naval Base headquarters in Portsmouth: "WASP itself dates from the mid 1980s and has been under almost continual development ever since. It is based on the OpenVMS architecture with component packages in a variety of languages including Pascal, Fortran and BASIC," it says.

Time/space travellers will no doubt be astonished to learn that the vortex that powers the TARDIS' journeys through the universe still runs on ancient programming languages such as Pascal and Fortran. The use of BASIC suggests inevitable BBC involvement due to the popularity in the 1980s of the BBC BASIC language.

The tender also requires the selected supplier of the TARDIS systems to offer "support to TARDIS users" suggesting a new IT professional companion may be joining the Doctor, Amy and Rory to provide helpdesk services during time/space continuum technical problems.

Ominously, the tender states that suppliers will also help with "administration of the TARDIS network and system (UK SECRET)." It is not clear if the secrecy classification refers to UK government monitoring of fellow time travellers through some form of inter-galactic GCHQ, or simply a plot twist as yet unforeseen as the Doctor battles his latest nemesis, The Silence.

The Doctor's famous technical precision is evident also in the calculations for the likely value of the contract on offer, stated as a "range between £101,323 and £810,580" - remarkably precise figures, we're sure you will agree.

Nonetheless, the tender will undoubtedly bring disappointment for some - The Brigadier, the Doctor's key contact in the top-secret alien fighting team at UNIT, will be distraught to see control of the TARDIS being managed by the Royal Navy and not the British Army.

The Doctor, Amy and Rory discuss ITIL procedures while waiting for second-line support to find the latest bug in the TARDIS Fortran routines.


Imagine - if an IT vendor had delusions of being a songwriter

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Sometimes, the IT industry makes Downtime's job very easy.

In this case, many thanks to BMC Software CIO Mark Settle, for demonstrating why IT types should never get ideas above their station.

What's more, he even asked us to publish this - so on his own head be it.

Settle contacted a journalist based in one of Computer Weekly's US sister-titles, remarking on an article on cloud-related marketing stunts. "It's very, very clear that there's a vendor feeding frenzy underway related to all things cloud," he said.

"I was on a trip back from Asia recently and had a chance to reflect on how silly some of the cloud hype had become... so, to entertain myself, I developed a parody about cloud computing adapted to the music of John Lennon, specifically the song 'Imagine'."

You can see where this is going, can't you? Like one of those slow-motion car crashes, its inevitability bounding across the horizon towards you...

"Take a look at the attachment and feel free to publish if you think it would entertain your readers," he said.

Well, it certainly entertained Downtime. So here it is, in all its glory: one IT vendor's attempt to be a former Beatle. Read it, and - as the saying goes - weep. Out loud.


By Mark Settle, after the song 'Imagine' by John Lennon

Imagine there's no raised floor
It's easy if you try
No server racks around us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the meetings
That never have to be......

Imagine there's no SAN farm
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no operators too
Imagine all the employees
Doing their jobs in peace

You may say that I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And we'll surf the cloud as one

Imagine no fixed assets
I wonder if you can
No greedy users or insatiable developers
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the servers
Working for the world......

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
When our employees can work as one


Rick Astley will save the world economy - the White House says so

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While the White House engages in a game of brinkmanship with US Republicans over the future of the US - and effectively the world - economy and its ever-growing national debt, they do at least still have time for providing some light relief.

In response to a complaint that its daily briefing was less than enthralling, the White House tweeted through its @whitehouse Twitter feed to say, "Sorry to hear that. Fiscal policy is important, but can be dry sometimes. Here's something more fun:"  adding this URL, and duly "Rick-rolled" the bored correspondent - with a link to Rick Astley singing Never Gonna Give You Up on YouTube.

For the uninitiated, Rick-rolling is an internet phenomenon where people appear to link to something interesting, useful or pertinent, but instead send them to Rick singing his 1987 UK number one smash hit.

When the world economy goes down the plug-hole as a result of US politicans being unable to agree on a deal to avoid defaulting on their national debt, we can all console ourselves by singing a few verses: "Never gonna make you cry, never gonna say goodbye, never gonna tell a lie, or hurt you..."

Is your supplier as fragrant as perfume?

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Many people are predicting the demise of Microsoft as the desktop market declines and users move to smartphones and tablets from the likes of Google and Apple. But one enterprising Microsoft employee clearly thinks so too, and is already making plans for his post-Windows career.

According to the Gizmodo blog, Microsoft vice president of sales Patrick McCarthy has launched a new perfume and, in what must be a clear nod to the cash-generating titan that is Windows, is calling the cologne Money. The product comes packaged, apparently, in real shredded banknotes in a sign perhaps that some Microsoft sales folk can still make vast quanitities of commission just by saying, "There's a new version of Office out."

Downtime wonders what would be the chosen perfume of other big players in IT? For IBM, something big and blue, and probably involving the cloud - perhaps Sky. For SAP, something Germanic and expensive that takes a very long time to use - perhaps Giant Bratwurst. And before long, no doubt Oracle CEO Larry Ellison will want a stake in the sector, but all he will need to do is buy everybody else's perfume and call it his own. Any other suggestions?  




The hive mind will soon be able to solve life's little problems

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Bees, apart from being very good at making honey, have also been proved to be computing whiz-kids.They solve regularly (or have solved and shared the solution) what scientists at Royal Holloway, University of London call the "travelling salesman problem", or how to find the most efficient route between all the points you need to visit - for the bees that's the best pollen bearing flowers.

This jolly achievement, which undoubtedly makes the bees very happy, led to a recent headline, "Bees tiny brains beat computers", atop an article insisting that we must find out how they do it. 

This all reminded Downtime of Terry Pratchett's magnificent interpretation of how computers work, with the concept of the "Anthill inside".  Perhaps the great storyteller was closer to the truth than we - or even he - suspected. Right idea, just wrong insect.

Y-CIO, it's fun to play as a Y-CIO

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"I said, young man, 'cause you're in a new town...There's no need to be unhappy".

That's how the YMCA lyrics go, right? American Tony McAlister, who happens to be CTO at online betting firm Betfair, took that literally when taking part in a Dragon Boat race earlier this month.

The IT chief and a group of fellow senior managers raced - and won - dressed up as the Village People in a bid to attract more donations to a £5,000 pot that is going to leukaemia research charity Antony Nolan Trust. McAlister is the gent right at the front of the boat dressed in the Indian outfit that you can see below, in a picture that confirms the fact that the IT boss always does all the work. Bless him.




To donate to the Antony Nolan Trust and watch a video of the last seconds of the Betfair boat race, go to

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