Downtime: political scandals, apes, and four-letter words

The wacky world of IT

America's finest practical joke unstuck by web prank

In what will come as a shock to many readers, it has emerged that not all politicians are squeaky clean. In fact, shockingly, it seems even US politics is susceptible to the odd scandal.

Michael Sessions, in what seemed like a fine practical joke, became mayor of Hillsdale at 18 years old. Sessions, with his heady pledges of turning his bedroom into an office, seemed perfect for the post, but his fall from grace has been dramatic. He is now due to begin 40 hours of community service after carrying out a string of e-pranks on his former campaign manager, Brandon Thomas.

Sessions hacked into and deleted Thomas' MySpace and AOL Instant Messenger accounts, and, according to reports, sent an e-mail to his mother that referred to her son's "unhealthy academic lifestyle".

Thomas' mother said she knew the e-mail was a fake because it was the only one she had received from her son since he had left for university three years ago. Clearly Thomas was too busy living an unhealthy lifestyle to send e-mails telling people about it.

In the aftermath of the scandal, Downtime suggests there are two lessons to be learnt. First, it may be unwise to elect teenage mayors, and second, if you want to engage in a little e-pranking, it can be worth putting in some research.

We can only conclude that it is easier to get elected to public office in the US than it is to play a simple prank.

Network of the apes is jungle internet

Look away now if you are not of a Darwinian disposition. Behavioural scientists have compiled research into how the group dynamics among apes can mirror those of network engineers in IT departments.

The researchers found that apes use highly complex trail markers, made up of sticks and leaves, to silently communicate in the dense tropical forests where they live along the Congo River.

The discovery is in opposition to the belief of many scientists that apes lack the brain structure for complex communications.

Downtime firmly believes that this is a primitive attempt to establish a jungle internet and, if allowed to continue unchecked, could possibly lead to a Planet Of The Apes-style situation, where network managers are forced to flee half-buried datacentres on horseback as apes gain Cisco certification.

Furthermore, in the current market, if the apes can tack on some Web 2.0 functionality, they could probably sell their trail of sticks to Google for about £10bn.

It could just be enough to save the rainforests of the world, or at least to buy several bananas.

Font me! Helvetica's reached the half century

Bones creaking? Eyesight blurring? Emotional disconnect from popular music? For many people, turning 50 can be quite a crushing experience. The blow can be doubled if, by the time you reach that age, only seven people want to be your friend on Facebook.

For others, particularly those in the font community, reaching 50 can be a cause for celebration.

For it is 2007 when we finally have an excuse to celebrate the glorious font Helvetica as they say, there is no party like a font party.

Created in 1957 by Max Miedinger and Eduard Hoffman, the font is still going strong. "From the beautifully implemented New York subway signage system by Vignelli to the lowly 'EXIT' sign, the flexibility of the typeface seems to have no boundaries," read the official announcement.

While we do not doubt the New York public's enthusiasm for all things Helvetica, we have had the opportunity to ride the New York underground, and despite witnessing many four-letter words scrawled over the subway walls, we do not remember any of them spelling out "font".

If you have a funny IT-related story, we want to hear from you
E-mail cwdowntime@rbi.co.uk

This was last published in July 2007

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