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Read the not-so-fine print

Are you the type of person who, upon installing a new bit of software, clicks on "OK" when all the legal mumbo-jumbo comes up, without bothering to read it? Be honest now.

For shame. We Backbyters, of course, study this mumbo-jumbo very carefully, so as to be very sure what we are agreeing to, before ever we click "OK". And if you believe that, you probably believe Santa Claus comes from Mars.

Well, for all of us hasty "OK"-clickers, here's an object lesson. A small graphic design and publishing house in Melbourne (which will remain nameless) recently obtained a few copies of Apple's exciting new operating system, Mac OS X (see this month's First Looks, page 36 for the review). Like many of us, they clicked "OK", rather than reading through all the legal stuff (which, incidentally, is called an End-User Licence Agreement). In amongst the EULA of Mac OS X is the following note:

"This software is not intended for use in the operation of nuclear facilities, aircraft navigation or communication systems, air traffic control systems, life support machines or other equipment in which the failure of the Apple software could lead to death, personal injury, or severe physical or environmental damage."

And, if that isn't scary enough, elsewhere in the same agreement:

"This software should not be used in a commercial operating environment or with important data."

The first bit is, believe it or not, pretty standard EULA fare. The second bit is particular to beta or pre-release software. Pity the good folks at this publishing house didn't read it before clicking "OK". They found themselves with a lot of computers incapable of doing what they wanted them to do, and an awful lot of suddenly missing data. Let this be a lesson.

Could be worse: they might have been operating a nuclear facility.

Buns in the oven - online

Some of you may think that human reproduction is a fairly straightforward process. In fact, we personally know several people who've found it sur-prisingly so. Apparently, though, some people find the whole thing rather difficult and complicated.

The difficulty mainly arises for those women who are "trying" to get pregnant. There's endless calculation, marking of calendars, and (without going into too much detail) mucus is involved.

But no more. A new service offered by a German Web site frees women from all the tiring monitoring. Simply register at www.zappybaby.de, fill in a few details, and you'll receive a mobile phone call, or an e-mail, to let you know when "the best five days for love" have begun.

Better yet, you can have these messages sent to your partner, in one of the less-subtle courting techniques we've yet heard of.

Who says romance is dead? And whatever happened to "if at first you don't succeed . . ."?

Our main regret is that we can't read German. We'd love to know what it says on the Web site under "Tips and Tricks".

Pull the other one

The person in this picture is whispering to herself whilst sticking her finger in her ear. Some strange psychosis, you presume? No, in fact, it is the very latest thing in mobile communications technology.

Developed by a Dutch firm called NTT DoCoMo, this is a wafer-thin mobile telephone you wear as a wristband. When a call comes in, it vibrates gently, and the wearer taps his or her fingers to answer it. Then they stick their finger in their ear, and the sound vibrations from the phone are carried by the bones of their hand into the ear. When speaking into the phone, you must use a low voice, since this aids in the conduction of vibrations back to the phone (apparently).

The inventor believes the idea hasn't taken off because people aren't comfortable with wearable technology yet. We have another theory: who wants waxy fingertips?

Million-dollar car space

The garage in this photograph sold recently for $US1.7 million dollars (at the current exchange rate at the time of printing, this represents most of the money in Australia). Why so expensive? Great view? Close to shops and transport? Gold mine underneath?

None of the above, actually. What's more, it's something of a fixer-upper. The reason for the high price is that this is THE garage after which the phrase "garage start-up" was coined. There have been literally thousands of companies started in garages by young entrepreneurs hoping to hit it big, but this was the very first one.

This garage was the one where, in 1938, young William Packard and David Hewlett first started tinkering with electronics. With $US538 in capital investment and an idea about a device to test sound equipment, they started a company which has since grown to some $US42 billion in annual revenue.

History doesn't record exactly when Hewlett-Packard left the garage, at 367 Addison Avenue, Palo Alto (or at least we couldn't find it on any Web sites), but apparently the two founders weren't unhappy to see the back of it. When it was designated California Historical Landmark #976 in 1989, Hewlett lamented, "now they can't tear it down".

The buyer of the historic property is, of course, HP itself, hoping to regain some of its forgotten youth. Or at least, we think that's the reason. It could be a precursor to the largest corporate downsizing in history.

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