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When Technology Bites Back 4 June 2002 Edition
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Million $ Ideas
At last, the contents of Aardvark's "million-dollar ideas" notebook are revealed for all to see!
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Sometimes Mr Murphy likes to go overboard -- and it seems that he's chosen me as a method of demonstrating his real powers.

It all started a few weeks ago when my Acer 14-inch monitor decided to simply stop working. No fuss, no smoke, no excitement -- it just went dark. To be honest, I'm surprised it lasted as long as it did. Long-time Aardvark readers will know that I'm not at all impressed with the quality or support offered by the Acer brand.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, the hinge on my laptop broke. No, I wasn't trying to crack walnuts with the screen or do anything else out of the ordinary, and I was closing it quite gently when -- "crack."

Last week we had power problems with trees across lines etc -- and that took out my little TV set in a very impressive cloud of smoke and loud hissing noise. At least I got something for my money this time.

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Let's not forget also that the batteries in my secondary UPS have turned out to be dry as a bone -- resulting in a backup period measured in seconds rather than minutes.

Just a few days ago, my fancy Sony VCR packed a sad and now won't play back tapes -- preferring instead to display its own version of some impressionistic artwork. Fortunately I have a spare VCR so it's no big deal but I'm still not very happy.

This weekend, Mr Murphy continued to wreak havoc by knocking the CDR/RW drive out of commission on my standby PC and then, just a couple of hours later, turning the IBM hard drive in my main PC into something that sounds remarkably like a castanet -- as it goes into fits of futile recalibration every few minutes.

Always preferring to take the optimistic perspective, I am happy in the knowledge that I'm nearly out of technology so Mr Murphy might choose to find easier pickings fairly soon.

The ING Saga (continues)
Last week the Clutha Licensing Trust received a faxed invoice from ING telling them they had 48-hours to deposit the sum of $125 into an ANZ bank account.

ING have responded to allegations that they were up to their old tricks again by claiming that they sent the invoice in response to an order placed by the trust.

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The trust's accountant says he was simply asking for clarification of their earlier unsolicited "Registration Advice" -- the same snail-mail spam that thousands of Kiwi nameholders are all too familiar with.

I have since sighted what ING claim is the order placed by the trust and have to say that it could well be interpreted as an order.

Of course the fact that the returned form did not contain any credit card details -- despite a very clear statement that payment is by "credit card only" leaves the matter open to some debate I suspect.

So was ING's invoice unsolicited?

If I were being charitable I'd have to say that it was perhaps the result of confusion.

Perhaps ING were just trying to offer the Trust an alternative method of payment for what they thought was a genuine order -- while the Trust thought they were simply requesting clarification of this unsolicited "registration advice" that arrived in the mail.

What can be learnt from this situation however, is that when terms such as "Registration Advice", "due date" and "your domain name" are used to try and sell a product then in many cases, confusion will be inevitable.

That Tivo Idea
Interest continues to grow in the Tivo-like setup I described last week.

A couple of nice folks have offered to lend gear for this purpose and I'll be getting back to them this week.

Suffice to say (hard-drive problems not withstanding), I have already been having a bit of a play with my Pinnacle PCTV card and some readily available software.

Even my old PII/400 is quite capable of capturing video at 25fps with minimal compression applied. Using my current setup (with a *new* 20GB 7200 RPM drive) I've been able to easily record an hour's worth of video albeit in 15 minute blocks between ads at MPEG1 - level resolution.

Unfortunately, with a 400Mhz CPU it simply isn't practical to do on-the-fly compression so the conversion of the resulting AVI files to MPEG or Divx format has been offloaded to another machine via the household network.

I have downloaded the latest software for the PCTV card which offers a whole heap of Tivo-like functionality. You can read about it in the manual (ftp download of PDF file).

Unfortunately, to take advantage of the advanced features such as timeshifting, I'm going to have to use a box with a lot more grunt.

Now -- here's where I think the *real* money is with this system...

If hardware vendors start shipping these Tivo-like PC appliances, it would be reasonably trivial to set up some software and an online service that would allow users to programme their recording by program title rather than using start/end times or G-Codes.

An online service could then be set up that would use the Net to automatically start and stop the recording function based on the exact time that the requested programme actually started and stopped playing. It would also allow remote start/stop to completely eliminate the ads.

The service could be obtained via subscription -- or (and here's where it gets really interesting), it could be ad-funded -- insomuch as each recording session could be prefixed with some video footage that would be downloaded over the Net while the program was being recorded. In effect, the service provider could take out the broadcaster's ads and insert their own.

Pay for the service and get no ads at all -- opt for the free version and you get ads at the start and end of the program (which can't be fast-forwarded through) but none within the programme.

Would you pay money for this type of service -- or would you use the free version with ads? How much would you pay?

What would the broadcasters and their advertisers say about that I wonder?

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Security Alerts
Microsoft Exchange hole "critical" (CNet - 28/04/2002)

Report: Hole found in Excel (ZDNet - 28/05/2002)

Yahoo! Messenger! multiple! vulns! (The Reg - 28/05/2002)

Opera vuln gives up local files (The Reg - 27/05/2002)

Microsoft warns of new debugger flaw (CNet - 22/05/2002)

Virus Alerts
Teddy hoax virus looking to play Down Under (ZDNet - 19/05/2002)

New Klez worm squirms across Internet (CNet - 18/04/2002)

Aphex E-mail Worm Has A Way With IRC, Instant Messenger (NewsBytes - 11/04/2002)

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