Aussie scientists try the vest of both worlds
New Scientist has reported that basketball vests with electroluminescent displays that show a player's score and number of fouls are being trialled in Australia. The simple, coloured display panels are attached to each vest and connected to a small computer, about the size of an iPod, strapped to each player's body.
The computers communicate wirelessly with a central control system installed at the side of the court, which keeps track of all relevant game statistics.
This being Australia, Downtime wonders why this technology was not first applied to cricket, although it is doubtful that England's Ashes team would relish the prospect.
Helpdesk staff put their finger on the problem
When we heard from one helpdesk pro who had to switch a user's black keyboard to a beige one because the keys were too shiny, we thought it was a one-off. However, another IT professional at a helpdesk in Scotland had exactly the same complaint and used the same solution.
This left the helpdesk with the unenviable task of sorting the bona fide from the ludicrous, as users also complained that keyboards were "too clicky", "too soft" and "do not press down far enough". And one user's mouse was "too small".
Zen-like patience should be a prerequisite for all helpdesk positions.
Mobile cacophony stays grounded for now
Last month's anxiety-inducing news that mobiles could soon work on planes prompted a chunky e-mailbag of ideas.
One reader pointed out that, happily, mobile handset jamming technology already exists, and can be bought relatively easily online - but wondered whether using it on a flight would be a good idea.
Another reader said that Downtime's texting-only suggestion overlooked the fact that even texting was annoying when every key press was invariably accompanied by a piercing beep.
Weighty photocopier snag is a pain in the glass
For IT departments whose remit extends to the photocopiers, one reader offers some seasonal advice. Among the elite fraternity of photocopier engineers it is a well-known fact that photocopier glass is incapable of supporting the weight of an "occupant" past four or five copies.
To make matters worse for any over-exuberant office partygoers who think it hilarious to photocopy their rears, the glass is also designed to be crystal clear and tends to shatter into razor-like shards. All of which means that many an IT department should expect some seasonal callouts that involve repairing and hosing down blood-stained photocopiers.
Early electronic find is music to a techie's ears
Although they are hardly known for being hip, IT professionals can sometimes unwittingly stumble into vogue. While the young kids are searching for the elusive roots of early electronica, led by bands like Hot Chip and Amp Fiddler, retired Oracle programmer Geoff Newland came across the real thing while sorting out his attic.
Writing to Computer Weekly, Newland said, "One LP which is of particular interest to e-wrinklies like me is a 1962 recording entitled 'Music from Mathematics' made using an IBM 3090 computer and a digital sound transducer. This actually predates the Moog Synthesiser, which was the first purely electronic musical instrument."
Newland went on to say he would sell the LP on eBay. Since it is no longer on the site, techno purists will be wishing he made a copy.
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This was first published in December 2006