Downtime: Now trendy Tony falls flat on his iPod...

Now trendy Tony falls flat on his iPod

Now trendy Tony falls flat on his iPod...

Tony Blair's status as a dyed-in-the-wool technophobe wasn't helped last week by his admission that he's less than confident using his iPod. "My daughter does all the songs," said our Tony. "I'm not very good with the technology, not very good with any aspect of it."

Our esteemed PM is inching his way down the communications and technology food chain with his "I'm useless" revelations - first e-mail, now iPods. If he really can't use his iPod, Tony could always hotfoot it down to Selfridges, which is charging punters £65 for a 40-minute one-on-one iPod tutorial.

And if he ever tires of battling with its fiendish interface and wants to sell it, he should also take heed of last month's warning by the record industry that he needs to wipe the thing before flogging it on, or he will be in breach of copyright.

... But still knows how to get himself on video

Tony Blair, as we all know, operates at the white-hot technological bleeding edge.

To prove the point, he has got together with his pals at MSN Messenger - for whom he presumably does a bit of sneaky coding when he can find the time - to take part in an alternative prime minister's question time, which answers questions from the public.

The competition to put your question to the PM via live video link is already underway, ahead of Tony's 4 April date with destiny when he will hold a live video conversation over MSN Messenger at 10 Downing Street. In case you were wondering, this will be the first time Blair has taken questions via live video over the internet.

A Downing Street spokesman insisted the move was more than a gimmick. "Our G8 presidency last year made big strides.... The prime minister is committed to turning promises [on aid for Africa, cancelling debts and climate change] into action in 2006, and wants to hear views from the public on these vital issues."

These 64-year-old codes ain't what they used to be

The latest Enigma message to fall to the combined computing power of a distributed project to crack several remaining Enigma intercepts dating back to the Second World War was a bit of a disappointment, to be frank.

The translation yielded by the M4 project was little more than a routine observation report: "Found nothing on convoy's course 55 degrees, I am moving to the ordered naval square," is how it starts off, and continues in a similar dull vein.

The first message, which was cracked by M4 back in February was a lot more dramatic, corresponding as it did with entries in the war diary of a German submarine: "Forced to submerge during attack, depth charges ... [I am] following [the enemy]." Which is much more like it.

The signals being analysed by the project were captured in the North Atlantic in 1942 and found recently by an amateur historian who sent them to the Cryptologia journal in 1996 as a challenge to codebreakers.

Councils are cleared by Inspector Morse

It hasn't escaped Downtime's notice that local authorities are not always lauded in the pages of this magazine for the way they run their IT.

A survey just out, though, will make welcome reading for our friends in the public sector. According to website monitoring firm SiteMorse, council websites came out ahead of the sites of FTSE 100 firms on most measures, including accessibility, code quality, function and performance.

Among other things, SiteMorse found that download speed was adequate on 60% of local authority home pages, against 55% among FTSE 100 firms, while code quality was notably better, with 20% of local government sites gaining full marks in the survey, against just 8% of the leading corporates.

Cause enough, perhaps, to be breaking open the bubbly in council IT departments around the country. Or at least the fizzy water.

Why Bill is a lot more happy than Larry

Some things in life you can be sure of: death, taxes and Bill Gates topping the list of the world's wealthiest people.

Forbes' annual rich list has Microsoft's chief software architect leading the way with an estimated net worth of £28.6bn, ahead of his Microsoft co-founder and investor, Paul Allen, in fifth place with an estimated £12.6bn; and Steve Ballmer, Microsoft's CEO, at number 24 with £7.8bn.

Further down the list - though still, let's face it, pretty rich - are Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, ranked 26th and 27th respectively, with nearly £7.4bn apiece, while Oracle's Larry Ellison is still at the top of the enterprise software pile with £9.1bn - putting him 15th on the overall list.

The results came out at the same time as Apple Computer boss Steve Jobs once again confirmed his annual salary as $1. No need for a whip round just yet, however: Jobs is paid in Apple stock and isn't short of a bob or two.

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