Surf's up for all of you goggle eyed web addicts

The wacky world of IT

Surf's up for all of you goggle eyed web addicts

Downtime has always laboured under the impression that the internet is a life-enhancing, democracy-spreading, business-transforming, community-building, loneliness-eradicating force for good, while computer games are the devil's work, turning out fat, goggle-eyed sociopaths (albeit with razor-sharp hand-eye coordination).

Now researchers at Stanford University say internet addiction is a growing social ill, with one in 10 US adults so addicted to surfing that they conceal their internet use from family and friends.

Unsurprisingly, the research found that those most likely to be addicted are single, white males in their 30s, a substantial minority of whom spend more than 30 hours a week online on top of any work-related hours they put in.

The researchers said the compulsion to check e-mail, post blog entries, talk in chat rooms or surf the web is similar to symptoms suffered by substance abusers.

Meanwhile, the Federation of American Scientists have decided that with a little tweaking computer games are in fact wonderful, with the potential to become serious learning tools. Their theory is that games can teach the skills that employers want: analytical thinking, team building, multitasking, problem solving under pressure - you name it.

It does not sound like studies in virtual skateboarding are in the offing just yet, but Downtime still doesn't know what to make of it all.

Never mind the ballots, here's the election result

Staying in the US for a moment, Downtime is disquieted to learn that the land of the free and the home of the brave is planning to use a voting machine in its mid-term elections that can be hacked to change the voting selections.

With its less-than-glowing record on voting, you would have thought the US authorities would prioritise getting this kind of thing right, but attention to detail appears to have been lacking. The voting machine in question, which uses a touch-screen system, is down to be used by a third of America's 3,000-odd counties.

All this only a few short years after the 2000 US presidential elections, when we were treated to the spectacle of the world's only superpower failing to count the votes its own citizens had cast.

All the controversy around hanging, swinging and dimpled chads revealed then that American voting technology was more third world than first world, and it looks like all the billions since spent by federal government have not quite done the trick.

The problem is that although half the US counties bought reliable optical scanners that count votes marked by hand on paper ballots, a third of counties bought the hackable touch-screen machines.

So, just like 2000, the party that wins November's elections may not necessarily be the one that wins office.

Here is the news: you're not living in the real world

If the real world is all getting too much, you could always take refuge in Second Life, a virtual reality world that now has more than a million "inhabitants".

But be warned. From this week that world will no longer offer refuge from the prying eyes of the media.

That bastion of old-world reporting, Reuters news agency, has decided in its wisdom to bring the rest of us the business "news" from Second Life.

Residents of Second Life will also be able to keep up with the news in the world outside by visiting the Reuters building that it has built within Second Life.

Or else they could turn on the telly or the radio and go online, presumably, since they are still living, sentient beings, unless Downtime is missing something.

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