Island Life by David Slack


What's the frequency, Helen?

I am not one of those nutters who pesters Radio New Zealand and Parliament with extravagant claims that the SIS has inserted an electrical probe in his rectum. My complaint is that the the Prime Minister of New Zealand has tried to attach a spying device to my Macbook Pro.

Let us work through the evidence methodically.The device is an Airport Express, which I bought yesterday, along with an Airport Extreme base station, to replace my dead router and try once more to to equip our house with proper wireless coverage.

I can’t tell you how many other routers and giant dishes and intrusive pieces of electronica I have had hanging off walls and shelves inside and outside our house. Karren probably could. To say she does not much care for electronic devices cluttering up the house is to be as euphemistic as to say that Howard Hughes was a bit fussy about the housekeeping. She mostly bears it with good grace, but get around a friend who’s not a fan of computers and empty half a bottle of wine into them both, well, then I find out how unwelcome my clever gadgets are.

Let me tell you why Helen Clark would put up with them. Her reputation as a control freak and a detail wonk is formidable. Tell her anything, she’ll recall it a decade and a half later. She has no need for a vast database or a mile of files. It all fits in that awesome cerebrum or, at a pinch, in the H Drive. But to have this groaning human database, you must first gather the raw material.

You can’t be everywhere; but tiny little spy instruments can.

Let’s say I walk into an Apple store. Let’s say it’s the new MagnumMac store in the still-new and yet already completely appalling Westfield mall in Albany. Let’s say they give you prompt and attentive service and a few minutes later you’re leaving the store with some software and two boxes: one holding an Airport Extreme Base station, shrink-wrapped in cellophane and the other - the Airport Express - au naturel. I vaguely registered the anomaly at the the time, but it wasn’t until I got the packages home and installed the equipment that it dawned on me that the item might be pre-loved, and worse; that the explanation might be perturbing.

The Airport Extreme installed in a fashion that was so elegant, so trouble free that I almost wept for joy. In mere minutes, two windows pcs; two windows laptops; one Macbook pro and a wireless printer were having secure, encrypted and intense digital relations with one another and best of all, I could walk my laptop great distances about the house and the signal remained strong.

It Just Worked.

I should have stopped there, but I had also bought the Airport Express, because I had read that you could use it to extend the range. Never before had I been able to get a decent wireless signal out of the office and up to the next floor of our house to the lounge. I now had a really good signal, I thought, why not try to get an even better one. I plugged in the Airport Express and it was at this point that - to paraphrase- several hours of perplexing suboptimal computer behavior took place.
Paraphrasing all the way to the point of this story, it became apparent as I tried to configure the Airport Express that Someone Had Passed This Way Already. The Express already had a user name and a password. Matthew Hooton will have already guessed what that name was: and he is right:

My Airport Express had been given the username: “Helen.”

What could this mean? Apple and their resellers pride themselves on selling goods of the highest quality, so the possibility that MagnumMac had induced me to pay full retail for a pre-loved item was of course one that I dismissed out of hand. Someone had clearly been tampering with their merchandise. So I started calculating backwards. My very reliable router had been supplied to me by my former neighbour the Techsploder, who favours only the most reliable of equipment. And yet this equipment had died a sudden and violent death.

There was only one conclusion to be drawn. A fatal untraceable malign charge had been sent through the air, colliding with my Wired Country signal, fatally wounding my router. I had predictably gone to the nearest Apple shop to get a new one. They knew precisely where to go and they knew precisely what equipment I would ask for, because I am a predictable lefty.

If this government, which as any fule kno, is hellbent on quelling dissent in election year, were determined to interfere with the country’s bloggers, all they would have to do would be to doctor a blogger’s Airport Express and rig it up to mangle any outbound Internet traffic of a critical tone.

It suddenly all made chilling sense. They had very nearly gotten away with it, but in their haste they had omitted to remove the telltale digital DNA, namely the username and password.

I still have not been able to guess the password, and you are welcome to make suggestions.



No dice.




Perhaps it might be an expression overheard as she was at her work:



Still no luck.

I have reconfigured the other unit to remove all recognition of this supplemental and unnecessary unit.

But questions remain.

Should I try to guess the password and thereby make it possible to reset the unit? (The reset button refuses to cede its territory). If I did, I could then put the unit on TradeMe, because I have no need for it.

I could go in to MagnumMac and pretend they had sold me a used item as a new one and ask for a replacement which I would then sell on TradeMe, but I tried this strategy on the phone today and they clearly knew I was concealing the truth that the unit had been hijacked by black ops people in Wellington.

Get this: they say that if it’s already got a username and a password on it, then I should bring it in and they will reset it for me, (and frankly: good luck with that - 20 minutes on the phone with Apple support couldn't budge it) but they won’t swap it for a new one. Now, given what we know about the Consumer Guarantees Act, I don’t think they'd be saying that if they didn't know I was hiding the fact that Helen Clark was behind the whole thing. Oh no. They’d just give me what I’d paid for, in a shrink wrapped box, no questions asked.

Of course they would.

And they would be saying: we do apologise for the inconvenience.

If it were my shop, and I was considering the years of future patronage they might anticipate from someone like me - I’m thinking of, for example, the Macbook Air and a couple of Imacs - they might even say “well if you don’t need that, we’ll take it back and refund your money. “

If they really wanted to humour me, they could even pretend they’d already taken it back once before.

But maybe they guessed correctly that I had only gone there because Ubertec were out of stock. Ubertec would never play ball with the black ops people.

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