Taxing time as Revenue looks after the pennies
If any readers think we've got it in for the poor old taxman by highlighting his failings in our Making the Tax System work campaign, Downtime is pleased to report on a piece of speedy efficiency at the Inland Revenue.
A member of our team was shocked to receive a tax demand for £1.60 just a few days after submitting his tax return. A call to the tax office confirmed that they definitely wanted the money.
This demonstrates conclusively that the taxman's IT systems are in better shape than we thought. And he was canny enough to send the demand to our journalist's previous address. If he'd missed the February payment deadline, the taxman would have levied surcharges of 5%, bringing the sum payable up to a heady £1.68.
Gordon Brown can sleep easily in his bed.
Down tools on time this Friday, urges TUC
It might be ill-advised to say so in a magazine such as ours, but technology arguably has a lot to answer for in terms of upsetting the precarious work/life balance of workers up and down the land.
Laptops, mobile phones, PDAs, Blackberries and the like have all played their part in the steady encroachment of working life on what was once called free time (remember that?).
In the immortal words of Alanis Morissette, isn't it ironic that the TUC has now turned to technology in an effort to confront the issue, in the form of a dedicated website pushing the importance of working your proper hours.
Friday 24 February has been deemed Work Your Proper Hours Day by the TUC, on the basis that it is from this point onwards in the year that the average employee will have worked all their unpaid overtime for 2006 and can begin earning for themselves.
The TUC's website - workyourproperhoursday.com, for the workshy layabouts among you - tackles the issue in various engaging ways, including a quiz to help employees discover what type of overworker they are, from "desk junkie" to "stay late sheep".
Less frivolously, once the long hours problem is diagnosed the person will be given tailored advice on how to treat their unproductive working patterns.
One more thing. For this Friday the TUC is urging staff to take a full lunch break and leave on time. Which, for the bosses among you, might not quite be music to your ears with that project deadline coming up.
SOS as digibox sends out the wrong signals
Freeview may or may not be a wonderful thing, depending on your appetite for wall-to-wall rubbish TV, but one thing the accompanying digiboxes aren't meant to do is send out SOS signals to coastguards.
Last week, lifeboats off the coast of Plymouth were scrambled when a signal from Mary Donaldson's digibox went out on a wavelength used by ships in distress.
It was picked up initially by rescue co-ordinators at RAF Kinloss in Scotland, who alerted the Plymouth coastguard.
But it was only after teams had spent three chilly hours scouring 20 miles of coast that the signal was traced to dry land. According to the Sun newspaper, Donaldson arrived back from a cinema trip with a friend to find two men outside her home armed with a huge antenna.
"It was extraordinary. My friend thought I hadn't paid my TV licence," was her reported account of events.
Those sleuths at Ofcom, the communications regulator, chipped in handily with this notable insight: "Digital boxes aren't meant to transmit signals."
That's cleared that up, then.
He's done the crime, but doing the time is tricky
Received any of those classic Nigerian advance-fee fraud e-mails recently? As a Computer Weekly reader you couldn't possibly get duped, but some poor suckers are still being caught out.
Last week, a Lagos court jailed Nigerian national Harrison Odiawa for 376 years for managing to extract a mind-boggling £1.1m from George Robert Blake of the US. Blake made the payment - raising the cash from his company and personal assets, in case you're wondering - on the promise of a percentage of a bogus £11.7m Ministry of Health contract.
The judge ordered Odiawa to pay back £1m to his victim and noted that he hoped the rather hefty sentence would act as a deterrent to others.
It's put Downtime off that particular alternative career path, make no mistake.
IBM contractors must hot foot it to work
Down in Guildford, IBM contractors working for Defra are likely to be improving their fitness after local residents kicked up a stink about their car parking habits.
It seems that in the year since Defra signed a 10-year deal worth £850m with IBM, the firm's contractors have descended on the residential roads around the Merrow district of the town in such numbers that local residents now have nowhere to park.
After a tense stand-off, IBM has been told to stop the contractors parking on the offending roads - with Defra staff carrying out patrols to track down any less-than-upstanding workers who fail to honour the agreement.
This was first published in February 2006