I once helped devise a version of Cockney-rhyming slang comprising entirely of figures in the IT industry. Sparked by the beautiful symmetry of "Scott McNealy = Touchy feely", we foolishly tried to extend the idea. With the exception of "Hewlett Packard = Knackered", it was a shambles.

And so was Mr McNealy himself this week. Sounding off, as ever, Scott of the Cathartic made a bit of a boob in front of his admiring audience at the Oracle OpenWorld show. He put up a picture ostensibly from the magazine "Popular Mechanics" showing how people in 1954 envisioned the home computer in 2004, and proceeded to mock it and use it as an example of how far we'd come.

Except of course the picture is a joke. It shows the insides of a nuclear submarine and was doctored for an image mod contest. You'd think perhaps that the head of one of the world's biggest computer firms may have had some inkling that all was not as it seemed. But with a line that should stay with Mr Touchy Feeley for immortality, he instead offered, in front of thousands: "Being from Detroit, I have to wonder: What is the steering wheel for?" For driving yourself over a cliff, Scott?

And here it is:


Which neatly segues (no, not the stupid motorised scooter-skateboard that didn't change the world after all) into another wonderful piece of nonsense masquerading as news but covering commercial intent as effectively as a fashion designer hide his models' breasts.

"Is the public ready to use e-services?" asks the BCS - British Computer Society. Which in in itself a first-rate example of asking the wrong question. We'd much prefer something like: "Where the hell are all these e-services that the government promised would be available three years ago?"

No matter. Presuming they ever do appear, is the public ready to use them? No! says the BCS and it has a survey to prove it. A "worrying" 62 percent of the UK adult population has never received any formal training to help them use a computer, we are told. A quick survey of Techworld staff revealed that 60 percent of us have never had any formal computer training - so at the least the BCS' figures are about right.

It gets worse: 54 percent find computers complicated and 45 percent feel left behind by the rapid advances in computer technology.

Well, forgive us for spoiling the party, but personal computers weren't easily available until the late 1970s, which means that anyone over 30 will not have seen a computer while at school, somewhat limiting the likelihood that they would have had lessons on them.

"54 percent find computers complicated." Well, if you go down to your local Sainsburys on Saturday you'll find that 54 percent of people find putting a pound coin in a metal slot to get hold of a trolley complicated. And "45 percent feel left behind by the rapid advances in computer technology" is clearly nothing but an out-and-out lie. It's at least 80 percent and you can include us in that calculation.

Anyway, the solution, according the BCS, is to book lots of unreasonably expensive computer courses for all your staff with, er, BCS. So that's that settled then.

Heated testes
Ever wonder why newspapers and TV produce so much blatantly wrong information regarding science? Wonder no longer - it's because 98 percent of journalists have never got beyond O-level in physics, chemistry, biology, or any other similar subject and are subsequently less knowledgeable about the wonders of modern science than your local plumber.

Witness then another wonderful example of a nonsense science story come good because of a quick-thinking PR person sticks a tasty headline on it.

"Increase in scrotal temperature in laptop computer users", is the study produced in medical journal Human Reproduction.

In it, the Department of Urology at the New York State University rediscovered what scientists have known for decades: that raising the temparature of the testes - or bollocks, in non-medical language - causes a reduction in sperm production. If this is maintained over a long period of time, fertility can drop - possibly, although it has never been proven over 20 years, permanently.

The difference was that they used a laptop. And, they say, that with adopting an on-the-lap pose, with your legs held together to keep it steady, the heat from the laptop will heat up your testes - up to 2.8 degrees centigrade over an hour.

If you apply a scientific mind to these facts, you will discover that if you put a heater on your legs, with them closed, they will get hot. Which is not in itself all that dramatic. However, what you need to ask is how long your balls would need to be kept at this slightly higher temperature for it to have an impact on your fertility. The survey as far as we can see, doesn't bother to answer this fundamental question - which, presumably is why it says it needs to be funded for further study.

However, we can give you the answer: four months. Ten years ago, an Egyptian researcher decided to look into testes heating and sperm production, and so he created a special pair of underpants that put pressure on the testicles and kept the heat in. The volunteers then had to wear them almost non-stop and each week their sperm count was tested. After four months of wearing the special pants for 18 hours a day, the mens' active sperm count fell to zero.

So there you have it: if you sit with your laptop on your legs for 18 hours a day every day for four months, you could indeed see your sperm count disappear. Perhaps we should also mention that five months after returning to their usual pants, all the men's sperm counts were back to normal. So thank God for yet another piece of responsible science journalism. It makes a nice change from all the pointless scaremongering.

Still worried?
You do however have to take your hat off to Port, who, within three hours of the laptop-bollocks story gaining coverage, had put out their own press release explaining why they had the perfect solution.

Previously, the main qualities of the Lapdesk portable laptop stand were that it apparently made the laptop last longer by lifting it up and letting the air to it (it's not a bed-ridden patient, it's a computer - Ed), and it also put the laptop in a more natural position for you to type, thereby saving your neck from going green and your hands dropping off. But with the evidence of testicular tragedy still warm in their laps, Port suddenly realised that all along their device was made to save generations of young men from going infertile, perhaps even saving the human race itself.

Somehow though, we get the feeling that no matter how many sexy women you stick a huge bag on and ask to pout at the camera, people are not quite going to start carrying these things around. Still, it was a nice try.


You should already know that sexy women and technology don't mix. Witness the latest worm doing the rounds, provocatively titled "playgirls2.exe". We're sorry but even the most hormonally charged individual who opens an execute file sent via email by a complete stranger, deserves all he gets.

And who devised this most evil of tactics - promising much and giving only a headache and a sense of loss (so more like the real thing than you'd expect)? Chechen rebels. The worm - Maslan-C - will launch a DoS attack at websites that the Chechens don't like, apparently. It is safe to conclude that they are probably Russian government-based.

You can't blame them though. Being forced underground, with the Russian army after them and with their womenfolk more likely to blow themselves up than you off, the Chechen IT boys have to have something to take their minds off it.

Fat nation
Here's another load of nonsense. We've grown used to people in this country being obscenely fat because they can't quite understand the equation "apple = good; pizza = bad". And so Toshiba thought it would shamelessly exploit these chubby fools by accusing the rest of us of being "digitally obese".

What the hell is that? It's when you have too much data. What?! Yes, if you have too many files, applications etc etc, you are suffering from "digital obesity". How much is too much? Well, according to some idiot at Toshiba, 20GB. "Based on the average number of text messages, emails, digital images and mp3 files consumers are storing on mobile devices today, users are carrying on average a 10 gigabytes of data on their person daily," the study claims.

Hang on, two figures plucked from nowhere are clearly not true. So what if you've got 20GB when you can fit it on a drive the size of calculator? (I have to confess I have 10 spare 40GB drives lying around). And how on earth are people carrying 10GB on their person? What exactly is the issue here?

Well, the problem - you'll like this - is that "one gigabyte of data is the equivalent to one pick-up truck full of books". No it isn't. It's equivalent to a five-inch by three-inch hard drive. Where on earth on did they get that factoid from? The University of Berkeley, California. I think we've heard enough of that one.

Couch potatoes
And there is even more help for us digital fatties, reclining on the couch, greedily watching our gigabytes of DVDs. According to "a pan-European survey", 52 percent of UK homes now have five or more remote controls. Seems a bit high, but we'll let that go. So is whatever company is behind this survey going to offer us a way of cutting them down to just one (please)? Not on your nelly - it's going to sell you an entertainment system and add another one to the list.

Who's behind it this time? No less than Intel. Come out you naughty chip maker and explain yourself. "We asked Brits, if they were given the choice, where in the living room they would put a 'dream PC' that incorporated all their home entertainment needs. British men (27 percent) admitted a desire for it to be in the easily accessible location of the armrest of a chair, whilst 30 percent of more image-conscious women suggested it be disguised as a picture on the wall."

So what? What are you bothering us with this rubbish? And what did the other 73 percent of men tell you? To bugger off, presumably. "Well, the research coincides with the introduction of an exciting new generation of home entertainment technology - the Entertainment PC. The Entertainment PC sits in your living room and looks like a stereo - but acts like a computer for multi-purpose entertainment. It combines the functionalities of a CD/DVD player and recorder, FM stereo and music server, and personal video recorder - all in one."

Do you have someone to comment on the survey results by any chance? "Yes, Adrian Criddle of Intel said: 'The survey shows that the modern household is awash with entertainment devices..."

Right, shut up Adrian, that's enough rubbish for one week. It's time to go home and bathe in the real-world certainties of eating, farting, washing-up and arguing with your wife.

Previous Friday Fun
Pubes in your keyboard, chips on your glitterballs - 3 Dec 2004
Gay porn and violence - don't you just love it? - 26 Nov 2004