January 3, 2008  11:33 AM

Computer scientist in official recognition shock

rfroley Profile: rfroley

Startling new evidence has emerged that the UK really does value its computer scientists after all. Steve Furber, a designer involved with creating the BBC Micro, has been made a commander of the British empire – a mere 27 years after the fact.

Furber lived a true Monte Carlo lifestyle that most of us can only dream of. He represented the UK in the International Mathematical Olympiad in Hungary in 1970, where rumour has it he calculated pi to 17,000 decimal places.

This is an exceptional feat considering that Downtime can only calculate pi to three places, namely, in the oven, in our mouth and in our stomach.

In 1978, Furber was appointed Rolls-Royce research fellow in aerodynamics, but he left after he was told he could not borrow the cars on weekends.

January 3, 2008  11:31 AM

Doctor Who Episode II: attack of the browsers

rfroley Profile: rfroley

Another year older, another year nearer the grave. Yes folks, AOL has decided to announce that it will no longer support Netscape navigator. During the mid-1990s, a time when Downtime harboured foolish fantasies such as ambition, Netscape was the dominant web browser.

This was, of course, before Bill Gates discovered what WWW stood for and deemed it worthy of a mention in the second edition of The Road Ahead – the first edition famously made no mention of the world wide wait.

Shortly after this, Internet Explorer was bundled with the Windows operating system and crushed Navigator like Downtime crushes parking tickets.

This gave rise to the infamous “browser wars”, which, although not as exciting as Star Wars’ Clone Wars, could nevertheless have made a better premise for a Doctor Who Christmas special than the televisual abortion Downtime watched over the holidays.

December 18, 2007  11:20 AM

Lonely web users warned off caddish software

rfroley Profile: rfroley

It is the time of year when the lonely can be made susceptible, and lulled into all sort of devilish traps. So internet-chatroom romantics beware: your next chat may be with a clinical computer, not a passionate person.

An Australian anti-virus software firm, PC Tools, has warned that software used on a new Russian website could be abused by identity fraudsters trying to harvest people¹s personal details online.

The Russian website is advertising software that, it says, can simulate flirtatious chatroom exchanges. It boasts that it can chat up as many as 10 women at a time and persuade them to hand over their phone numbers, although the system does have a little trouble remembering birthdays.

December 17, 2007  11:19 AM

Rock-fuelled granddad reinvents the wheelchair

rfroley Profile: rfroley

A retired IT systems engineer from Germany was arrested after he was found doing 40mph down his local high street in a super-powered wheelchair he had upgraded.

Guenther Eichmann, 54, told cops in Geseke, Germany, that he was a former engineer and had modified the wheelchair’s electric motor so it could go faster. This was the second time he had been stopped for speeding after a warning for breaking the limit. Eichmann was slapped with a £300 fine and his wreceiving heelchair was confiscated.

Rumours that police stormed Eichmann’s garage to find blueprints for a machine gun attachment, an ejector seat and a turbo boost remain unconfirmed.

December 14, 2007  11:04 AM

Downtime slips up making a monkey of a chimpanzee

rfroley Profile: rfroley


Downtime thought the chimpanzee apocalypse might well be upon us when we reported last week that monkeys were being trained to replace data analysts.

However, reader John Long wrote in to point out the obvious error, ‘I am sure that you will have heard this from lots of people by now, but a chimpanzee is not a monkey, it is an ape.’

Monkeys, apes, gorillas ­ the threat of simians taking over the earth remains the same. But as long as humankind continues to print documents so as to destroy their homes in the rainforests, we might still have a fighting chance.

December 14, 2007  10:44 AM

Facebook frees users from present-tense pickle

rfroley Profile: rfroley
Social networking

Facebook users are rejoicing as the social networking site has removed the “is” from the status formula “John Smith is”, meaning users are free to enter their own verb of choice after their name.

The status bar allows users to notify their friends of what is most keenly on their mind, and a groundswell of opinion had risen against the restrictive “is”.

Users are now free to write anything after their name, such as “John Smith is going to banned from Facebook”, “John Smith has been banned from Facebook” and “John Smith was sacked for using Facebook”.

December 12, 2007  10:02 AM

DWP bypasses courier to issue security guidelines

rfroley Profile: rfroley

It seems the government has turned a corner in its approach to data security.

It emerged last week that the Department for Work and Pensions sent local authorities an unencrypted e-mail detailing how to password-protect their data. The e-mail detailed the password that was to be used by every authority.

Although the information could have been easily accessed by even an incompetent hacker, and a uniform password is woefully insecure, it is heartening to see that the government is having a go at security.

December 12, 2007  10:00 AM

What I did on holiday: stole a car, smoked pot…

rfroley Profile: rfroley

A teenager in Norfolk has been banned from using the internet to publish “threatening or abusive” material.

The 17-year-old, who was tried at Norwich Youth Court, had posted his thoughts on his criminal behaviour, including smoking cannabis and stealing cars, on the Bebo website.

Claims that the youth was publishing his yobbish behaviour on the social networking site in the hopes of securing his own reality television show, are as yet unconfirmed.

December 12, 2007  9:59 AM

Russians see miracle of childbirth in a new light

rfroley Profile: rfroley
childbirth, Mobile phones

The future is orange, but not particularly bright, as a Russian mother at the point of delivering her baby girl discovered.

When a hospital in Shelehov in northern Russia was pitched into blackness by a power cut, nurses gathered mobile phones to use the light from the screens to assist the doctors in the delivery.

Although telecoms providers may find this a heart-warming story, others may wonder why a Russian hospital lacks, first, a back-up generator and, second, a torch.

Furthermore, if some studies are to be believed, the nurses would have done as well to use a stick of glowing uranium to assist in the birthing process.

December 12, 2007  9:54 AM

Microsoft’s Santa bot talks naughty, not nice

rfroley Profile: rfroley

Microsoft has revealed what it is that Santa Claus himself wants for Christmas. Those who thought the answer would be mince pies and brandy are in for a shock. An automated Santa Internet bot created by Microsoft for its MSN Messenger service has reportedly been chatting to users about oral sex. When asked if he would like some pizza, Santa said, “You want me to eat what? It’s fun to talk about oral sex,” later telling the MSN Messenger user, “I think you’re a dirty bastard.” Microsoft has apologised for any offence caused by Santa, and has withdrawn the bot. The Santa bot has since been invited to give a series of lectures at the Oxford Union Debating Society on the subject of internet etiquette.

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