Issue #27
23 September 1996
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Aardvark

Edition #27

HELP - WHERE AM I??
Early man navigated by the sun and by checking out what side of the trees the moss and lichen was growing - simple stuff.

Then came the compass - a magical improvement that allowed bold travellers to continue their journies in the dark - and rapidly lead to the demise of the Roman sandal - too many unseen rocks and stubbed toes I suspect.

Of course these days, if you don't have a GPS (Global Positioning System) in your Range-Rover or Jeep Cherokee then you're really a second class citizen and you'll be banned from most Remuera streets. After all, how could you possibly find your way to the casino without knowing your exact coordinates to the nearest 10 cm?

Unfortunately it appears that the fantastic star-wars GPS system is soon to come somewhat unravelled. While most of us terrestial beings are worried about the way our computers and software will resond to the dawn of a new millenium, people reliant on the network of satelites which are the cornerstone of the GPS are also in trouble.

It seems that the guys who wrote the software for the GPS satelites figured that global destruction was just around the corner so there was no need to think more than a few years ahead. Apparently the software on these systems doesn't track time in the normal manner - it counts in weekly blocks of seconds with a base-date of January 6 1980.

For some reason, the software in these satelites uses only enough bits to store 1024 weeks (isn't that a nice round number in binary terms?). Now the rocket-scientists amongst you will have already worked out that 1024 weeks from Jan 6th 1980 is in fact August 22 1999. On that magical date, all the GPS satelites will suddenly be reset to - you guessed it - midnight, January 6 1980.

What does this mean? Well if you've got a GPS unit (and this means all you BMW owners with the top-line models), then just as the satelites will take a trip in time, you will take a trip in space. Suddenly your GPS will become decidedly inaccurate - somewhat worrying if you're on a round-the-world cruise, tramping through uncharted territory or just looking for a parking space in Ponsonby.

Fortunately GPS manufacturers have been notified of the problem and newer models will take this into account - but there are already millions of older units in use which will effectively become useless in three short years.

Remember this when doing the rounds of the garage sales trying to find a second-hand unit to dress-up the Lada for that expedition into upper-middle-class suburbia.

EGG ON THE CIA's FACE
The National Security of the USA is a job that falls on many shoulders. The NSA, CIA and FBI all play a part in protecting the interests of the USA. In fact, the US is so paranoid about its security that it won't even let Netscape and other companies export "secure" versions of their software using high-level encryption algorithms.

It's somewhat paradoxical therefore that the CIA's web site was recently broken into by a group of hackers calling themselves The Swedish Hackers Association. In true hacker style, these witty cyber-terrorists renamed the site the "Central Unintelligence Agency".

This came just a few short weeks after the embarassing episode where the US Department of Justice's web site was attacked and defaced by yet another team of hackers.

In the interim the CIA site has been shut down but may one day be activated again at www.odci.gov/cia.

Some advice for the CIA... "the end with the hole in it goes towards the target guys".

THE "BIG-BOYS" IN REAL ESTATE ON THE NZ WEB
Ever since the web started getting up a head of steam, people have been claiming that it would make a great system for promoting real estate and selling property. In recent months a number of real estate companies have taken the plunge and put their money where their modem is so I thought I'd take a look around.

I am aware that there are a lot of small property sites on the NZ web, in fact a quick look around reveals that there are probably more than you'd expect. Unfortunately one has to wonder just how effective an isolated site with ten or twelve listings is going to be when compared to some of the "big players" with their bulging portfolios. I've skipped the little-guys this time and just focused on the mainstream operators.

Harcourts
Well this is a site that should be extremely comprehensive given the scope of Harcourt's operations around the countryside. There are certainly a lot of listed properties. Unfortunately this site is ultimately a bit of a disappointment for although it offers an excellent breadth of listings, the depth of information contained in those listings is sadly lacking. As an example I cite this 1.1 million dollar home in Remuera. Surely one could have been forgiven for expecting a little more information and effort than is seen here - especially in light of the commissions to be earnt from a sale of this magnitude. In fact it seems that some of Harcourts own agents are doing the job a lot better than their parent, just look at this excellent page for a property of similar ilk by way of comparison.
Aardvark rating: Looks good but try harder guys

The Real Estate Institute of New Zealand
Another comprehensive site, the RealENZ pages are attractive and functional, however the most endearing aspect for most Kiwi's is likely to be the way that Australia is portrayed as a little island off the coast of New Zealand. Not only does this site have a reasonable range of listings but the information provided is excellent. Just take a look at this page as an example. It contains just about everything you might want in order to decide whether to investigate further.
Aardvark rating: Well done, functional and attractive

The Professionals
Well Bodie and Doyle are under no threat from these Professionals. This site uses the "Maxum Data" software also being used by Harcourts and as a result suffers from the same deficiencies with respect to the amount of data available on each listing. Unfortunately the site also suffers from a somewhat smaller number of available listings with a quick query of Auckland house properties returning a total of 63 listings compared to Harcourt's total of 658, a ten-fold difference.
Aardvark rating: Limited by the software used I guess - so-so

Notable by their absence are Wrightsons Real Estate, Allerby, Century 21 and a number of other nation-wide real estate chains. We'll wait and see how long it takes for them to create their own presence.

SUBDOMAINIA
As the battle for domain-names hots up, it's only a matter of time before "subdomainia" hits the web in New Zealand. What is subdomainia? It's when everyone rushes to grab domain names that can be used to create a raft of valuable subdomains. An example of this is Voyager's acquisition of the domain .nzl.com which means they can now create a whole raft of sub-domains such as xtra.nzl.com ibm.nzl.com flowers.nzl.com and the like. Of course there are a raft of very valuable domain names that are suitable for subdomainia, how many can you think of? For starters, how about ltd.co.nz. This would allow you to create names such as cadbury.ltd.co.nz sanyo.ltd.co.nz to think of just a few contentious ones :-)

DUKE NUKEM 3D TOO MEAN FOR NZ STREETS
Perhaps this is old news to most avid computer-gamers but I was surprised to learn that the regular commercial release of Duke Nukem 3D (a shootem-up of the Castle-Wolfenstein/Doom genre) is not available in NZ because of censorship. Check out this page for the reasons.

RIGHT OF REPLY
Anyone mentioned by Aardvark who feels that they have been misrepresented or who wish a "right of reply" are invited to send email to me at ror@aardvark.co.nz and the contents of that email will be printed verbatim for all to read.

RIGHT OF REPLY
No right of reply received this week.

FROM THE "I CAN'T BELIEVE IT'S TRUE" DEPARTMENT:

Everyone know's there's a housing shortage in Auckland and it's this shortage that is responsible for the boom in property prices. I didn't realise there was such a deficit of available properties however until I visitied this page:

The wide open spaces of Auckland

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The entire contents of this publication are copyright 1996 to Bruce Simpson, all rights reserved. Don't copy it without my permission - just ask, I'm unlikely to refuse any reasonable request.


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