German makes million in virtual Chinese take-away

The wacky world of IT

German makes million in virtual Chinese take-away

A German woman is the first person in the world to become a millionaire from playing in a virtual reality world.

Former Chinese language teacher Ailin Graef has made her fortune by developing "land" in the massively multi-player online role-playing game Second Life.

Graef has been so successful in designing online properties that people are happy to pay her money for the pleasure of owning them. The property development is carried out by Graef's avatar, a character in the game called Anshe Chung.

Downtime knows that software developers are occasionally tempted to play online games, such as Second Life, while they are supposed to be working, but don't assume quite yet that Second Life will make your fortune.

Graef employs 10 full-time computer gamers in China to develop content for Second Life. Her business, Anshe Chung Studios, also runs a datacentre of more than 400 servers stuffed full of virtual designs.

Graef's virtual world

Speedy system keeps UK tat supplies topped up

Downtime paused to marvel recently that the world's largest container ship, the Emma Maersk, was able to unload its 3,000 containers crammed full of Christmas tat in less than a day.

This was thanks in part to a complex computerised unloading system at Felixstowe docks - isn't Britain wonderfully technologically advanced? However, it doesn't change the fact that the ship was laden with a cargo of laptops, dancing gorilla toys, bingo sets, fax machines and the like, but returned to China with little more than crates of waste plastic, paper and steel for recycling.

Downtime doesn't know much about economics, but wonders how long that particular game can last.

The seasonal docking of the Emma Maersk was also a bit of a disappointment for hundreds of day trippers who flocked to the coast to marvel at the ship. Apparently, it spent most of its time so far out to sea that the quarter-of-a-mile long vessel was indistinguishable from all the other big ships on the horizon.

Payroll system delivers the Scrooge touch

Bah humbug! Hard-working employees in the US were cursing a payroll system this week when their bosses decided that money the system had overpaid in November would be deducted from their salaries in December.

More than 100 employees of Macomb County in Michigan were overpaid after the local authority implemented a new payroll system at the beginning of November. The system used the wrong information to calculate overtime pay, resulting in employees receiving extra pay ranging from 10 cents to $1,500.

The 112 affected staff will have their next salary payment deducted by the amount of the overpayment unless they cough up first.

Rumours that Gordon Brown has had a look at the system and plans to run it as a shared service payroll application for every central government department are completely unfounded.

Impress your friends with a bling bling laptop

For the more discerning among you, Asustek Computer's S6 notebooks are now being offered decked out in leather and jewels.

"It's not for everybody," admitted an Asustek spokesman. "We are thinking this would be perfect for the top executive or high-end salespeople who want to look impressive."

Downtime can think of a few things it might make you look, but impressive isn't at the top of the list.

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