Bytesback

Beg pardon?

Sun Microsystems CEO Scott McNealy has waded back into the political arena, approaching the newly-elected (sort of) Bush administration to keep up the pressure on Microsoft, and not to be easier on the monopolist than the Clinton administration had been. McNealy fears, as do many others, that the Bush people may be more pro-business and therefore more supportive of Microsoft's "freedom to innovate".

In addition to asking that the pressure be maintained, however, McNealy has reportedly asked that Bush not issue a pardon to Microsoft CEO Bill Gates. Note: we only say this has been reported, we cannot confirm it for ourselves. The problems with such a request are twofold: first, Presidential pardons are normally issued as a President is leaving office, and therefore are immune to any political backlash against their decisions. Bush only just got there. Second, Presidential pardons are normally issued to people who have been convicted of something. Unless McNealy knows something we don't, Gates himself hasn't even been charged with any offence.

Incidentally, just on the off chance that you're not in the McNealy camp, and you believe that bundling Internet Explorer with Windows was innovation, and not a brutish tactic designed to run Netscape out of business, you may want to check out www.microsoft.com/freedomtoinnovate, where you can purchase ultra-cool t-shirts espousing your views.

The "which is Blair?" project

Unarguably, British politics has been a little on the dull side since John Major's Tories were voted out a few years ago. Think about it: when was the last time you heard the words "fishnet stockings" and "floor of Parliament" used in the one sentence? Tony Blair's New Labour Party, for all its youthful vigour, simply lacks excitement.

But not any more. In keeping with its endeavour to be always fresh, always new, the Party has come up with a new logo. And, in order to be sure its new logo speaks to the younger generation, it's designed a logo that will be eerily familiar to Internet users.

Raining somewhat on the party, search portal Excite has expressed its displeasure with the new logo. The two are reproduced here, so you can decide the merits for yourself. Incidentally, these pics were not pinched off Web sites, but whipped up in about five minutes by one of your faithful Backbyters, who is no artist. It seemed a bit rich to go downloading stick figures.

The new New Labour logo represents a stick figure swinging his or her arms about, both celebrating the brave new Britain and at the same time encompassing all around her or him in a big, stick-like hug. As a side bonus, it looks like a love-heart. The Excite logo shows a stick figure whose head is exploding - either from too much information or excitement, we're not sure.

The potential for confusion is obvious - British voters could easily be tricked into voting an Internet portal into government.

What about cyber-atheists?

Recognising that problems with computers have now become the third most common source of calls for divine intervention (after armed conflicts and the Grammys, tied for equal first), the Catholic Church has announced it is considering appointing a patron saint of the Internet and computer programmers. Front-runner for the posting is said to be St Isidore of Seville, who in the seventh century wrote the world's first encyclopedia. St Isidore's Etymologia was ostensibly a dictionary, but the definition articles therein extended to lengthy discourses on medicine, art, theology and mathematics.

Also considered for the role have been St Paul the apostle (whose frequent and often unsolicited epistles make him an obvious choice for patron saint of spam), and St Anthony of Padua (who is often consulted when things are missing - a heavenly Ask Jeeves, if you will). The Archangel Gabriel has also been touted, although we can't think of a funny reason why.

The Vatican has offered no word on what benefits there would be for whichever saint is appointed to the patronage. We can only hope that they are not offered stock options in a dot-com.

Apocrypha now

Before we begin, let us make this clear: we don't believe this story to be true.

A fellow from Arlington, Washington in the US bought himself a packet of Ex-lax (a popular medication for, well, let's not go into that) for $US2.98 at his local pharmacy (or drugstore, as they say over there). After taking a couple of doses, he found he was unsatisfied with the result (scatological pun deleted).

Returning to the shop, he was asked to fill in a computer-readable card to claim a refund from the manufacturer. The card was then incorrectly processed by the company's computer, substituting his Zip code for the purchase price. A cheque duly arrived, made out in his name for $98,325. Makes us sorry we've only got four-digit postcodes.

Of course, if the computer put his Zip code in the space where the cheque amount was supposed to be, what did it put on the address label where the Zip code should be? Wouldn't the letter be undeliverable? But let's not let that get in the way of a good story.

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