Pirates sell copies of Longhorn two years before issue

PUBLISHED : Monday, 08 December, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 08 December, 2003, 12:00am

Much consternation was expressed in Malaysia last week when reporters found that Microsoft's next generation of Windows was already on sale in pirate outlets.

It did not matter that the product on sale is a buggy and outdated alpha version of the software, supports few applications and will not even run on most PCs.

Known as Longhorn, the new Windows is not due for release for at least two more years.

By this weekend, copies of Longhorn were also on sale for $30 each in Wan Chai's 298 Computer Zone, which has gradually reasserted itself as the island's premier pirate outlet.

But for truly dedicated collectors, you cannot beat the Net. Over the weekend we found four versions of Longhorn on various Web and FTP sites, peer-to-peer networks, newsgroups and internet relay chat channels.

The authorities may claim credit for the shrinking number of pirate shops in Hong Kong, but if anyone deserves credit, it is the broadband industry.

Public demand for European third-generation networks has been disappointing for most carriers. It seems the high prices, lack of handsets and good old apathy are to blame for the lagging response.

But Hutchison Whampoa, operator of the '3' network, has found a great incentive for prospective customers.

Working with phone retailer 34me, Hutch is offering 'a limited number' of video calls with Queen Elizabeth.

The phone dealer said its aim was to encourage people to 'have fun with mobile videophones'.

With relatives like hers, the Queen is unlikely to be easily shocked, but just think of the fun people could have trying.

The Segway Human Transporter has come in for some new criticism lately, after a transported human managed to run down a small child in San Francisco.

But if the US$3,995 price tag seems a little steep, we have found something much cheaper and infinitely more dangerous.

The e-Skateboard is an ugly machine and, appropriately enough, came to us via a junk mail from a firm named Taiwan Huaton E-Scooter Company.

The e-Skateboard bears the Luyuan brand, which seems to belong to the nattily named Zhejiang Yongkang Luyuang Electromotion Vehicle Factory. However, Luyuan does not list the product on its website or reply to e-mails. So we cannot say what is going on there.

However, the e-Skateboard's thrills lie not in angry trademark owners pursuing one another through the streets of Zhuhai but in the fact that it is steered by remote control.

Why would anyone need remote control on a skateboard? Huaton said: 'You can stand on the scooter, co-ordinate speed by remote control. It's a perfect way for both health body and fun.'

Just as long as you are not the fool standing on it.

This is honestly a true story. A colleague, who we shall name Mr M, was complaining that vertical loading DVD trays were less useful than those that load horizontally.

'You didn't know that a lot of people use their CD drives as drinks trays?' he asked, aghast at my ignorance.

I suggested to Mr M that the oft-repeated tale of the broken cup holder was just an urban legend. No one could really be that stupid.

'No, it's true, I know lots of people who do that. I used to do it with my computer at home, but then it got jammed up. It didn't break, it just kind of bent out of shape and wouldn't work.'

It turns out he has been using his CD tray as a Coke stand for some years.

We have never considered Coke and optical drives to be natural partners, so we suggested he got what he deserved. But still, our colleague insisted that there was nothing strange about it.

So what caused his drive to break then?

'I don't know. It just bent. Maybe the can was too heavy,' he said.

What could I say? He was probably right on that point.

But I could not resist asking whether he had tried calling his local PC store to complain about their shoddy equipment.

'I don't think it's covered in my warranty. I'm not that stupid okay?'

Of course you're not, Mr M.

Gossip, rumour or ignominy to share? Write to Neil Taylor at back.space@scmp.com.