Downtime: anything teens can break we can break better

The wacky world of IT

Anything teens can break we can break better

After our teen-bashing of recent weeks, several of you have pointed out that it is not only kids who lay waste to some very expensive kit.

Andree Cook, for one, has come clean over writing off two perfectly serviceable notebooks in just a few days. The first came a cropper when the thump of her one-year-old son playing upstairs caused her to slam her laptop shut on a sturdy pen so vigorously that the laptop was history.

Only days later, after an understanding visit from her insurer had quickly furnished her with a "gorgeous" state-of-the-art replacement, she managed to fill the machine with most of the contents of a "double-mug-sized cup of very sweet coffee".

Phishers find the time to target user accounts

Until now, phishing has been largely an exercise in randomly spraying out e-mails to all and sundry in the hope of luring some poor innocents to their doom.

Unfortunately for all you e-shopping and e-banking enthusiasts, it seems that phishers can now find out whether you shop on a particular site based on how long the site takes to respond to a spurious attempt to log on using your e-mail address.

Online timing tricks are not new - it is seven years since cryptographers at Princeton University demonstrated that the time taken by your browser to query a website can reveal whether you have visited that site before - but it looks like what the delay can tell hackers just got a whole lot more compromising.

We haven't got any clever tips on how to deal with this particular conundrum, besides closing your accounts and never shopping online again, but not responding to e-mails that ask for your life history and "verification" of your sort code and password might be a start.

Nokia's bolt of inspiration mobilises for golf safety

With golfers and other outdoor enthusiasts in mind, Nokia has proposed establishing a warning system built into phones that can tell you to take cover if lightning is heading your way.

The nifty system would make use of the fact that lightning, being electricity, emits radio waves. Apparently, each bolt produces frequencies of between 10 hertz and five gigahertz, and the distribution of these signals depends on how far away the lightning is. Downtime is quietly impressed.

Bluetooth, FM, Tri-band GSM, Wi-Fi and RFID systems can all be tuned to pick up these signals, which would then just need a piece of software to interpret them and work out how long you have got to avoid that fatal strike.

One small text and mobiles conquer Everest

Over on Mount Everest, meanwhile, a different meteorogical challenge has been putting a Motorola Z8 through its paces.

Somewhat disappointingly, the phone was accompanied on its dangerous mission to the summit by a mere human - British climber Rod Baber - who last week succeeded in making what is being hailed as the world's highest mobile phone call - a 40-second chat from the top of Everest.

The call officially took place at 8,848 metres in temperatures of -30°C. "It's cold. It's amazing. The Himalayas are everywhere. I can't feel my toes," were among Baber's insights.

Not surprisingly in our corporate-sponsored age, he also sent a cheesy text message to the phone's suppliers, declaring, "One small text for man, one giant leap for mobilekind - thanks Motorola."

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