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Save now, pay later

By the time you read this, you should be aware that Daylight Savings Time is starting a little earlier in Sydney this year, so that the evenings will be longer for the Olympic Games. Apparently this will help save money on stadium lighting, and give the world the impression that the sun is always shining on our wide brown dinky-di sunburnt land, fair dinkum, et cetera. If you didn't know before, you know now.

Of course, many automated computer systems which automatically adjust for DST will now have to be adjusted manually, and heaven help anyone who fails to correct a system. Time-lock bank vaults and other security systems leap to mind as a potential problem area. For one month, Sydney will effectively be in its very own time zone, shifted an hour from the rest of the world. Microsoft, ever the guardian of the computer-owning public, has issued its own notice at www.microsft.com/australia/support/timezone/2000.htm.

And all this because they don't want to schedule the events to start an hour earlier.

Next stop, Jurassic Park

The Human Genome Project, a massive undertaking that has occupied several groups of scientists for some years now, was finally completed a month or so ago. The project consisted of taking genetic samples from an extremely large number of people and assembling them all together, in hope of discovering the common blueprint for all of humanity - a massive DNA pattern from which every conceivable human trait can be derived. Originally a publicly-funded project, progress was boosted by competition from a rival privately-funded organisation.

The genome itself has now been completed, and all that remains is the lengthy process of trying to decipher it and make something vaguely useful - like genetically engineered mutant super-beings and the like. We've seen X-Men. The race now is between those who would use the technology for good, and those who would use it for evil.

If you'd like to dabble in the art of human engineering yourself (ever wanted a tail?) you can download the entire human genome at the University of California, Santa Cruz: http://genome.ucsc.edu.

Now, that's security

If you've been on the Net long enough, you have, more than likely, received e-mail that was not addressed to you. We don't mean bulk advertising, dumb jokes and pornography here. Just someone's normal, boring e-mail that was sent to your address through some typo or error on the part of the sender. You write back to the sender, saying it's not meant for you, and they correct their mistake, right?

Not if the sender is the British Navy, whose motto is "if there's a mistake, you're wrong". A 15-year-old schoolgirl recently found herself on the receiving end of numerous e-mails from a Navy Commander, at the rate of about 11 per week. When she informed the sender, he replied saying it must be a problem with her ISP - and continued to send her the messages.

For most of us, this would be a minor annoyance. What the Commander was sending the schoolgirl, however, included: descriptions of communication problems between the warships Invincible and Illustrious; discussion of software being tested by the US and British navies; discussion of a defence information sharing system under development between the US, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the UK - including details about how the information will be kept secret; and an 82-page document outlining the entire IT strategy for the New Zealand navy.

One of your more unkind Back-byters wonders if the important issue here is not "how does this information continue to be sent to the wrong address?", but "how does the New Zealand navy's IT strategy manage to fill 82 pages?"

About time

Researchers at the University of Adelaide are working with BlueLinx, a company that develops wireless applications for mobile phones, to develop a technology called Q-Zone. Q-Zone will allow the proprietors of establishments where mobile phones are undesirable - theatres, libraries and so on - to set up areas where certain phones simply will not operate. As soon as the phone enters such an area, it will effectively be cut off from the world.

Naturally, we're all in favour of this, as just a few too many movies have been interrupted by morons who think being tied to a telephone every minute is a good thing.

We also support the legislative approach being taken in Bolivia, where people speaking on mobile phones in theatres, libraries, churches and other "quiet" places can be removed from the premises by force and barred from re-entry. They have to learn somehow.

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