Downtime: don't leave your laptop on the roof of your car

The wacky world of IT

Don't leave your laptop on the roof of your car

Downtime is still enjoying reading your laptop-breaking efforts, after opening that Pandora's box with our musings last month on Fujitsu and its "free-fall sensor". Last week's theme was laptops being driven over, but some of you think that the "leaving it on the roof" phenomenon is far more common.

Chaz Cozens tells it like this: "Salesman finishes meeting. Walks back to car. Places laptop on roof. Takes off jacket. Opens rear door and hangs jacket up. Closes door. Rolls up sleeves and climbs into driving seat. Drives off."

From here the scenario can vary slightly. "A grand prix-type getaway will normally result in a sudden sliding noise, a thud from the boot, and the sight in the rear-view mirror of the laptop falling to the ground. But a more gentle getaway will often result in the laptop sliding off at the first sharp corner. Very likely, this will go unnoticed."

And finally, he notes with a just a hint of malice, there is the "ohmygodileftthelaptopontheroof" moment. "This results in a sudden sharp stop, propelling the laptop onto the bonnet or beyond, and frequently a loud crunch from the rear, since the HGV immediately behind was not prepared for a sudden unsignalled stop."

But Cozens, like Downtime, is still confidently looking forward to the day when laptops can take whatever gets dished up.

"I was once on a course with someone whose ruggedised laptop had been run over by a Challenger tank while setting up a forward communications base during Desert Shield. The laptop was still functioning perfectly, although the case was a little dented."

Or even in the remote vicinity of teenage boys

Ruggedised or not, others make the point that no manufacturer will ever be able to invent a laptop that is teenage-boy-proof.

Lee Andrews worked in a posh boarding school for two years where nearly all the students had laptops, and he believes that a "teenage boy sensor" is the only possible solution. "This would have to work by giving the laptop the capability to recognise as soon as it is placed in the hands of a teenage boy, whereupon it could shut down all working parts and cover itself in armour-plating, rather like the Batmobile does."

Andrews says an essential requirement is to take hard drives out of the equation for this challenging client group.

"When laptop hard drives are replaced with fixed storage rather than moving parts, it will save millions of pounds in insurance and warranty claims," he says.

"We had times where three laptops a week were being returned due to faulty hard drives. We often queried the stability of the laptops, but since the teachers were using the same models and had no issues, it had to be teenage boy syndrome that was responsible."

Committing insurance fraud the virtual way

There was more evidence this week that those pesky virtual worlds are busily encroaching on the real thing, with all its messy complications.

The Fraud Advisory Panel, a spin-off from the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, is warning that virtual communities are committing more and more real-life crimes in the virtual worlds - and government regulation needs to catch up fast.

Apparently, credit card fraud, ID theft, money laundering, tax evasion and unregulated cross-border fund transfers, plus sales of age-restricted goods and services to minors are all now virtual-world problems too.

What next? Virtual hooliganism and solvent abuse? It is all a bit disappointing that these brave new worlds are going all Lord of the Flies on us.

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