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PAA admits its data are 'of no use whatsoever'


SOME bright hacker discovered something very surprising on a set of floppy disks issued by the Provisional Airport Authority (PAA) in connection with contract number 302.

This is the $5 billion contract to build the new airport's main passenger terminal, and the PAA issued lots of technical information in the form of a stack of floppy disks, as it usually does.

What the authority doesn't usually issue is the detailed information it uses to prepare its own internal estimates on the job. Not deliberately, anyhow.

What the hacker discovered, probably with techniques more usually used for giving players an infinite number of lives in computer games, was that by typing in 'EST' when the software asks for a password, this information pops onto the screen.

Now, don't get the idea that this was a bungle. Indeed Clinton Leeks, airport spokesman and the Voice of Chek Lap Kok, explicitly told us it was not a bungle.

'I actually would describe it is an irrelevance,' he said.

He claims, rather improbably, that the PAA discovered the extra info 'in parallel' with the contractor. Once it had discovered the extra data, the password was sent out to all the other contractors to ensure no one got an inside line.

'We are satisfied that the information would be of no use whatsoever,' Mr Clinton said, explaining that it had been used to prepare estimates last year, and had since been superseded.

We asked one of the contractor's bidders whether the information was of any use.

We were told: 'Not really. Actually, that's the sort of information any good tenderer would release.' Eh? This is surely not a criticism of the professionalism of the PAA, which is widely regarded as the best and hardest-working team of airport-building civil servants in the whole of Central Plaza.

Gatecrashers IT'S no wonder the prices at yesterday's land auction were pretty dismal.

It was held at the Cultural Centre, and the official programme for the venue listed the auction as 'By Invitation Only'.

But the Government doesn't issue invitations to land actions - not even to Li Ka-shing.

It's a good job very few people noticed this requirement, otherwise the auctioneer would have been gazing at rows of empty seats while various tycoons sat in their offices sulking.

Near Far East THE latest company to stroll into the courtrooms to protect its valuable reputation from lookalike companies is not Coca-Cola, IBM or Walt Disney, but Deacon Chiu Te-ken's Far East Holdings International and related firms.

We're not experts on this topic, but we hazard a guess that the Far East trademark might be worth less than the US$36 billion tag attached to the Coca-Cola name a few months ago.

Still, Deacon's Far East Holdings International, Far East Consortium International and Far East Hotels and Entertainment have slung a writ at a sound-alike company based in a shopping centre in North Point.

They are seeking an injunction to prevent the sound-alike company from passing itself off as part of Deacon's empire.

The alleged imposter is called Far East (Group) Investment, whereas the name used for all of Deacon's Far East companies is Far East Group.

To an outsider this could get pretty confusing. Indeed, unless one had all his faculties, it would be easy to imagine someone within Far East Group getting pretty confused, too.

Fryscraper WHOEVER is responsible for the fire safety in those big government buildings on Harbour Road must be a little confused.

Maybe the Teach Yourself Fire Prevention book was read upside down.

Wandering around Wan Chai Tower yesterday, we noticed all 10 sets of smoke doors on the lower levels were wedged open (as shown left).

These are the doors that are supposed to be left shut to stop everyone choking to death if there's a smoky fire.

On the other hand, the doors at the bottom of the staircases are supposed to open, so that if the lifts stop working and everyone has to sprint down the stairs, they can actually get out.

Yet when a visitor to the Small Claims Court got bored waiting for the lift on Tuesday and tried to use the stairs, the exit at the bottom was found to be utterly shut.

The tower next door, Revenue Tower, also had quite a few smoke doors wedged open.

We can only presume that it's some sort of test for the civil servants inside - all 27 floors of them.

Whether it's a test of their intelligence or flammability, we're not sure.