Like having a traffic cop in your PC

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 October, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 October, 1996, 12:00am

You know how Hong Kong businesses have a cavalier attitude to software copyright, and people copy programs right and left for use or sale to staff and associates? Well, a company called WRQ has opened an office in Hong Kong to sell Express Meter 3.5, a piece of computer software which tells you when you are breaking the rules. Say you buy a few pieces of software and write '10 users' on the licence forms.

But your business grows, and you eventually have 438 people using them in your Hong Kong office and twice that number in China.

Express Meter 3.5 will pop up on your screen and say: 'You are currently in violation of licence agreements for [x number] of applications.' In other words, you pay money to buy a piece of software which announces loud and clear when you are being crooked, just in case your conscience is not doing its job (not that could possibly apply to any Hong Kong business people, as the Governor's critics regularly point out).

The Hong Kong office of WRQ wins our award for taking on the Toughest Sales Challenge Known to Mankind. On sale in Seibu, Pacific Place, spotted by reader Edwin of Quarry Bay: 'Stainless Pork.' What's this? Food genetically engineered for messy eaters? Paul Grover, a customer of Citibank Hong Kong, decided to get hold of their latest product, Direct Access. This is a wonderful software program that lets you do your banking through a normal home computer.

Being a bit of a computer whiz, Paul noticed a few minor bugs, and was looking through the program's code, when he found the following words: 'This copy is for demonstration purposes only.' 'Perhaps Citibank should get a licensed copy,' Paul suggested.

Or perhaps the bank should get Express Meter 3.5? A reader notes that Shanghai is about to get a branch of the multi-national insurance company General Accident.

'What a name,' he said. 'It is kind of like opening a life insurance company named Death.' Tony Arkey of Regal International Properties found an ad in Rugby World for Impress brand 'quality custom-made mouthguards'. These are things that rugby-players use to prevent their teeth from being kicked in. At the bottom of the ad are the mysterious words: 'State shoe size.' Perhaps they also send you some boots so you can kick the other guy's teeth in.

Now this is cheeky. The Economist Intelligence Unit used to have a newsletter called Travel Industry Monitor , edited out of Paris by former long-time Hong Kong resident Nancy Cockerell.

It had the distinctive little red box on the cover containing the initials EIU, with 'Economist Intelligence Unit' underneath.

But the EIU recently sold its tourism division.

Murray Bailey, a Hong Kong resident who publishes Travel Business Analyst , picked up a copy of the rival publication after it had been sold. It still has the logo and the initials EIU and the words 'Economist Intelligence Unit'. But in tiny print above it, are the words 'previously published by'.

Murray reckons he can also use the EIU logo, and add, in tiny writing 'never published by'. It's a neat idea. I think I'll add 'Pulitzer prize winning reporter' to my byline, surmounted by 'not a' in tiny letters. I was complaining about misguided attacks on the word Peking yesterday. A new street sign in Tsim Sha Tsui informs us that Peking Road is now 'Peaking Road', I hear from Robby Yung of Central.

'This must be as good as it gets,' said Robby. I'm sure the late great John Lennon would revolve in his grave at 45 rpm if he saw that his doodles were being treated as fine art, and displayed in a top Hong Kong hotel for the glitterati to bid for.

His favourite title for himself was Working Class Hero, and he hated cynical marketing ploys. 'I don't care too much for money . . .' The press release says he used an 'interesting technique' called 'the art of quick sketching'.

Give me a break.

Just a thought: It may be hard for a rich man to enter heaven, but it's often hard for a poor man to stay on earth.