Will the real Taylors of Derby please stand up?

The wacky world of IT

Will the real Taylors of Derby please stand up?

The convoluted and occasionally disastrous meanderings of government IT projects clearly occupy the minds of more than just MPs and computer journalists. While not quite reaching the outrage of disgusted of Tunbridge Wells, Lynn Billings of Royston revealed her fears in an angry letter to the Daily Telegraph.

During multiple attempts on the phone and online to register for the electoral roll, she was asked to confirm the details of "a family called Taylor in Derby".

Not surprisingly, Ms Billings is not an optimist about the NHS IT programme and is alarmed about the proposed index of every child in the country. "As for ID cards, I dread to think," she concludes.

Come in, the Taylors of Derby.

Yet another way to help you spy on your spouse

Checked your mobile phone lately? If not, someone else might have. Downtime was alarmed to read that a firm called Vervata is selling spy software for mobiles called Flexispy which lets the buyer "secretly record every SMS message, view their call history and more!"

Their promotional literature includes a testimonial from a customer who enthuses, "Thanks to Flexispy, I finally figured out my wife was cheating on me with my brother. My life is so much better."

When quizzed about this bizarre - and morally questionable - promotion technique, Vervata managing director Atir Raihan said it was there to make people smile. "People have their own reasons for buying all sorts of things - they do not all buy cars to rob banks," he says.

Winter's coming - so get your polystyrene coat on

Yet again, a chastened Downtime stands corrected. Never one to let the facts get in the way of our unstinting efforts to raise a half-smile, it seems our belief that aircraft holds operate at arctic temperatures is wide of the mark.

As reader Michael Strauss points out, it is not uncommon for pets to be checked into the hold. "I am sure they do not have to endure temperatures anywhere near those described - and laptops probably do not either. Did the same source suggest holds were unpressurised?"

Moving swiftly on from this nitpicking, other readers were more willing to take our account at face value. Anna Langley even helpfully suggests that the most effective way to prevent a laptop from freezing in an aircraft's hold would be to clad it in polystyrene foam.

"It is an excellent thermal insulator, which is why you do not burn your fingers drinking hot coffee from a polystyrene cup. And it is a good shock absorber, which could be a lifesaver considering how careful baggage handlers are."

In view of all this, Downtime is thinking of moving into an as-yet untapped market: polystyrene clothing for pets on planes. A surefire winner if ever there was one.

Why it's time to tell your laptop to stop smoking

Downtime is less than reassured by news of another Dell laptop fire.

This time, David Costello was travelling in his truck with his daughter through Florida when the laptop started smoking.

Costello flung it onto the back seat only to ignite a major fire, causing him to crash into a road sign and hastily retreat to a safe distance to watch the truck get burnt to a cinder.

With laptop users already understandably jumpy, Dell will not have done much to ease frayed nerves by pointing out that the notebook in question was not, in fact, among those that have recently been subject to a recall.

Not quite sure how that is meant to make us feel any better, but there you have it.

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