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Letters Let's start with the really important stuff: it is Friday after all. The BBC's new Welsh translation tool has gone down a storm:

This technology could be used by El Reg... for acronyms!

Every day I find myself reading an interesting story, but I get stuck by not knowing what "WXYZ" stands for.

Keep up the good work.

Mark

WXYZ: Web-based... Xylophonic ...erm....Yankee...uh..er...Zebra? Ok, we lost it a bit at the end there. Points for trying?


Re: "punter", "fag", etc; I have spent one-third of my life among Cockneys and the remainder among rednecks, but I haven't found an american equivalent to "Fwaooorr!"

Gareth

We bet you get invited to all the best parties with a pedigree like that...


This is a great idea, but I already have something similar as an extension to firefox. It works on any website. The extension is "dictionary search" here and you can set it up to translate using the various free translation tools on the web. It doesn't sound quite as convenient as having tootips appearing (you have to select, then right click) but it does work with any web page.

Darius


A "big congratulatory pat" indeed. More like a boot up the jacksie, methinks. Post, pipped. Cigar, none:

Regards Paul


Seems young Oliver touched a few nerves with his rant on the IT skills shortage story. We had a lot of letters on this one. The general gist of most was that he should stop whining and start playing with more technology in his own time, although some were a little more supportive. A couple of good ideas for recent graduates as to how to get their foot on that slippery first rung, too:

Oliver said:

"This situation is made even worse by the very selfish and anti-social world of the IT professional, IT knowledge and expertise is not something you absorb from simply being around computers, you only learn something if it's taught to you!"

That's possibly the stupidest thing I've ever heard. Are you incapable of setting out to learn something on your own, Oliver? And you have a degree? Why? The best kind of learnt knowledge is that which the student set out to learn off their own bat; it's more thorough, more motivated and undoubtedly more interesting than any taught knowledge could ever be.

Jasmine


The assertion made in one of your published e-mails stated that the only way to get a job in IT was to have experience is correct.

However, getting a job is not the only way to get experience.

As an Apple computer refugee, who lost my shirt in the Dot Com Bust, I had to retool in skills since working for Apple was not going to be an option. Thus, I took a crap job, ordered a T1, and proceeded to learn how to secure and administer Linux servers. Almost 5 years later, I have a profitable hosting business, three or four good corporate clients, and enough money to pay my bills and keep the wife and the cat happy.

Some of my contemporaries are still unemployed or "working at McDonalds".

It takes a certain kind of Lemming to break into the corporate world, make a success of it, and maintain some semblance of emotional health. There are other options. Mine option is hard work. But then again, I do what I love. Maybe that's the difference.

And while I have 11 years experience in my field, my previous career was as a guitarist. If you think corporate job seekers have it bad- trying being a music performance major....

Michael


Well if you really think that "you only learn something if it's taught to you", then stop wondering why some guy from India or Eastern Europe is going to take "your job". I am 25 and have been working as a software developer for about 3.5 years, and most of the stuff I know is stuff that I taught myself. Of course you can not learn just by beeing around computers. You have to sit down and use them. Study by yourself. And if they see you are genuinely interested in learning, I am sure IT professionals will offer some help or advice.

Or, if you expect to be spoon fed, you should just go get one of those "My job went to ..." t-shirts and vote for Dubya so he gets re-elected and he encourages US companies to outsource more jobs to my country so I get some more money and buy a nice house.

Calin


Any "IT professionals" who don't want to pass on their experience are not true professionals.

Regards, Mike : Chartered Engineer


Oliver said... "IT knowledge and expertise is not something you absorb from simply being around computers, you only learn something if it's taught to you!"

Nuts. I'd never give someone with this attitude a job. If you're really into your IT you'll play with things, find problems and then find the answer yourself with Google and other sites from the astonishing list of on-line resources we now have at our fingertips.

The vital skill in IT these days is to be able to _find_ the answer, not to know it already. No one can know everything that is required because the number combinations of hardware and software with which you can be presented is so staggeringly huge as to be effectivley infinite.

Cheers, Charlie


We also had this letter, looking at the problem from a different perspective:

A survey was done in a certain trade paper in January of this year concerning the so-called "IT Skills shortage".

It was fairly extensive, but it turned up the following fascinating facts.

People under 30 were thought to have insufficient "soft skills" and general experience to work in any given job. People over 35 were thought to be "too inflexible and unwilling to learn". This leaves the current workforce with a paultry five year window to get a job, always supposing they have found some experience during the first years and, if they miss it, they end up on the scrap heap.

I've had precious little work since being made redundant nearly three years ago, and I'm not exactly what you could call old. One of the main problems that was identified by this survey was that the major bottleneck was Recruitment.

There are companies getting fat on folk trying to train their way into jobs, others that get fat on keeping their books full of ultimately useless CV's, yet there are still jobs out there.

How about revealing the real reason why there is such a supposed shortage? There are too many people getting fat out of the status quo, and nothing is being done about it. As I said, this was all uncovered by this survey, yet I see no discernable improvement in the situation, then I see Gartner griping about it.

The people at Gartner should see it from where I sit!

-- Chris


Nokia had a word or two to say about its rivals nicking its design ideas. You said something about people in glass houses and the relative merits of them lobbing rocks about:

If Nokia are getting tetchy about other companies knocking off their designs there is definitely a bit of pot/kettle going on. Have a look at the Nokia 6230 announced on 2nd Nov : here

it's almost identical to the SonyEricsson T610 as seen everywhere.

Made me laugh anyway - I suspect that Sagem's lawyers will have a field day when they spot the uncanny resemblance.

Cheers, Peter


This is a bit rich coming from the company who seem to have ripped off the award winning Sony Ericsson T610 industrial design for the Nokia 3230, their new Series 60 phone.

Bill


Next, a young man writes, confused by spam, technology rankings and soul sales. An interesting mix, we're sure you'll agree:

I'm ever so glad that Hormel is so dedicated to reminding us what their Spam is. I know that I was sure having problems keeping the two seperate in my mind. I mean on the one hand you have something produced for dirt cheap and is sent out to as wide of a market as possible, it is wrapped in packaging meant to look pretty and get your attention, it is meant to make money for a business, it has contents that are a complete mystery, it leaves a bad taste in your mouth, and almost no one wants to even be bothered with it. And on the other hand you have... Wait. How are they different again? Help me Hormel! I'm so confused.

;-)

Insincerely, Arah Leonard


Arah had more to say to us this week, more sincerely this time, apparently:

"In contrast, the US scores lower for mobile use but has the highest number of homes with PCs and highest software spending." Wait. So because the US has a strong land-line phone network and therefore doesn't need mobile phones in the same way that other countries with a poor communication infastructure do, it's heavily penalized in its tech-savviness? Even though it ranks absolute top in actual computers, unarguably the effigy of technology?

Is it just me, or is the legitimacy of the IDS's measurement of the ISI rather debatable? Besides the already mentioned gaping logic flaw, why is the 'Telecom' category defined by broadband, wireless services, and network infastructure and not by, oh, say, how many people have access to a telephone? Why is broadband even in the 'Telecom' section when it's a purely internet concept and there's a whole 'Internet' category all its own?

And as for internet, why is e-commerce such a major part of the 'Internet' ranking? So countries with actual land markets that meet people's needs get a low 'Internet' ranking because the people don't need to conduct e-commerce to get what they want?

And what does e-commerce even have to do with the availability of information in this INFORMATION Society Index? Shouldn't 'Internet' be ranked by the availability of public internet terminals (cafes, libraries, malls, etc.), of home internet access, of work internet access, of broadband uptake, of wlan access points, and of people with wireless internet access devices? You know, the internet.

And exactly where do cable and satellite TV, or for that matter even paper-print and radio fall into place in the ISI? Are these not sources of information to society? Since when is information strictly limited to the internet?

I'd like to know what makes IDC so capable to "Analyze the Future" when analysis of their own Information Society Index doesn't even make sense. Maybe next IDC can put out Space Superiority Index defined by the number of people who drink Tang and the count of how many people in a country want to be an astronaut when they grow up.

Sincerely, Arah Leonard


And just when you thought he'd said his piece, he's back with a rant on US stem cell research:

Isn't it kind of hypocritical for Mel Gibson to oppose stem cell research on the basis of moral grounds and at the same time be involved in so many violent movies that corrupt our youth, not the least of which being that gruesome Christ thing? (Yes, I _could_ name it, but I like referring to it this way better.)

Or is it not hypocritical because morals are more of a personal nature thing and everyone's are different so it's okay for him to find bloody movies morally supportable even if Joe Blow disagrees? (In which case why do we then have people like Dubya choosing our morals for us?)

I'm so confused! Maybe I should sell my soul to the Catholic Church so that I no longer have to think for myself. Or maybe I should just take the Catholic Curch's guide to morality and molest some young boys while eating the flesh and drinking the blood of some dead god to antiquated candle light and organ music.

- Arah Leonard

We can't advise you on most of that, but if you are thinking of selling your soul, you might get a better price if you list it on eBay and let the press know.


I am not going to contribute to your FOTW (I hope) but I wanted to point out some errors in your article.

For starters I personally disagree with President Bush's position on obtaining stem cells for research but even so I do not like to see anyone's (even an opponent) position distorted. "W" is not opposed to stem cell research and in fact is the first president to have federal funding for it. How someone can "cut" funding when they are the first to ever have it escapes me. He does oppose creation of new lines of stem cells from embryos and here I differ with him totally but I choose not to get all excited - let the pro lifers and their rabid opponents have it out without me thank you.

Currently the federal government has already created over 7500 units of stem cells (from "old" lines that did not involve the "destruction of unborn children" - a totally different argument) and of those 4000 have been sent to requesting scientists and institutions who are currently involved in stem cell research and 3500 are just sitting there waiting for requests. That rather destroys the "availability" argument hands down - there are more available for research than requested! If this changes in the future then my position is: use them from anywhere but of course "W" and I disagree there. Until that point is reached however there is no point in an argument.

That is what I consider to be a "factual" errors in your article but I would like to go a little further and argue a point that is purely subjective. While I am all in favor of stem cell research regardless of the source (I totally disagree with the President) the idea of huge funding from federal or state tax money most probably resembles your NIH - a black hole sucking in copious amounts of money while giving back next to nothing. Federal and/or state financed research is most likely going to be given to well-connected but incompetent institutions and researchers. In my opinion the research should be done by independent and competent scientists who are more interested in obtaining results than government money and recognition.

So in summary - if you are saying that the US federal government is preventing stem cell research I believe you are either misinformed or misleading readers. If you are saying the government is not providing enough money *for* research then we merely differ in who we think is best qualified to be funding/doing the research and may we both just agree as intelligent people to disagree.

I hope you don't take this wrong - I really do like your articles and just felt I had to express my opinion on this one.

Tom


Staying stateside, and on the topic of the election, (although not delving too deeply into any of it, oh no), we have the following response to news of the NBC rant line:

With Mary Poppins voting in Ohio, we can hardly take these "elect kerry" whiners seriously. The rant line is just for people who don't get their way and is an extension of the lying, immoral democrats in America running the country down. John

Uhuh. Well, that's cleared that up.


Now into space: Firstly, in defence of the Shuttle:

For the attention of William Ready - not to knock the brilliance of private enterprise, but the Shuttle does rather a lot more than Spaceship One. Spaceship One trots up to a fairly high altitude which was once arbitrarily defined as 'space' and then hightails it back down again sharpish. The Shuttle actually goes into, y'know, orbit, which is more space-y as most people tend to perceive it. And stays there. And launches satellites, and things. Y'know. Space stuff.

Adam


Next, funding ideas for Beagle 3:

the beagle2 folks should maybe try for a Firefox-style donation program next time. i reckon they could have generated a surprising amount of money if they took a lot of small contributions from net contributors. i would have contributed to beagle 2 if i was ever asked.

James


And a Register reader single handedly saves the world from invisible comets

One word (well, two maybe): infra-red.

Tom

Now that's sorted, we'll bid you adieu for the weekend. Enjoy. ®

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