Paris is popular destination

As another year draws to a close, it is good to see that some things didn’t change in 2006

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By  Administrator Published  December 29, 2006

As another year draws to a close, it is good to see that some things didn’t change in 2006. Like the public fascination with a certain Paris Hilton. The star of the television series The Simple Life — and other films — was the number one news topic searched for by Google users. According to the online search engine’s Year End Zeitgeist list ‘Paris Hilton’ beat ‘Orlando Bloom’ and ‘cancer’ with such non-events as ‘Hurricane Katrina’ having to settle for fifth place.

Perhaps rather more interestingly, the data on searches from Google’s main site proved rather revealing on trends in internet usage. The top searched term ‘bebo’ is a teen-oriented website where users share videos, pictures and music, as well as seeking former schoolmates. It proved a more popular search item this year than last year’s leader ‘MySpace’ — which may come as a blow to Rupert Murdoch, who paid US$585million for the latter site last year.

Other popular sites searched for included Wikipedia, while the World Cup was the third most popular search of all.

Toy story

Meanwhile, while Santa may have been coming to town recently it is a good thing he wasn’t planning on stopping at Hamleys, the UK’s most famous toyshop, first.

An internet glitch meant the toystore was left without sufficient stocks over the Christmas period, its key selling season, after it inadvertently posted an error in its voucher scheme on the internet promising customers a 60% discount if they bought goods from its online store.

Thousands of parents rushed to take advantage of the offer bringing the website to a standstill and leaving stocks ravaged.

“It’s like the Vikings have been to Hamleys,” said one internet surfer, according to a report in The Guardian. “If you get on to their site, it’s been emptied and pillaged.”

Bargains picked up include a full-size snooker table, which went for US$10, less than half the US$25 of its retail value.

And although it was quickly withdrawn, the offer still left a shortage of stock at the company’s warehouse, which serves both the online and actual store.

“We can confirm that this weekend our website experienced a technical error,” said Hamleys chief executive Nick Mather. “We addressed this issue immediately and it was resolved within 24 hours. We would like to apologise to customers who were unable to access the website and place orders during this time.”

Virtual danger

One toy which it is probably safer to leave on the shelf, however, is the new Nintendo Wii console.
Whilst playing a video game may is usually considered a fairly harmless activity, the same can hardly be said for Nintendo’s new Wii console.

A number of cases have been reported across the US of people suffering injuries after playing the game.

In contrast to normal video games, the Wii, which competes with Sony’s Playstation3, is an interactive game whereby playing involves the user standing up, moving around and swinging the remote control. Damages incurred whilst ‘playing’ include black eyes, cut fingers and bruised heads, and that’s just to the users — household items battered include broken windows and smashed laptop computers.

Such is the ferocity of the game that a special site has even been set up,, for hardcore users to swop stories of ‘Wii-scars’.

In an effort to reduce the number of accidents taking place — and perhaps prevent potential lawsuits — Nintendo is now shipping remotes with stronger straps and offering advice to users of the game. “Hold the remote securely and avoid excessive motion during game play. If your hands become moist, stop and dry your hands,” Nintendo said, according to a report on The Times.

Lie detector

Finally, in a move likely to strike terror into the heart of many a philandering husband or workshy employee, Skype has announced plans to introduce an optional lie detector device to its voice over internet protocol (VoIP) service.

The software, which was developed by software house BATM and which is allegedly already in use by the US military, analyses the audio stream and stress levels of the caller to determine how honest the person may or may not be.

A less than honest caller is likely to speak in a different tone and pitch as their muscles tighten up in response to the stress, according to the firm.

“This is a really neat application, and the kind of thing we want to see more of,” said Paul Amery, director of Skype’s developer programme, according to a report on Vnunet.

The availability of the software has yet to be announced.

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