Dross surfaces during silly season

It's that time of year when unlikely ideas experience their brief moment in the sun

It's the silly season, and sensible people are away on their holidays. I'm left holding the fort, and by the look of things I'm joined by other heat-addled people from marketing departments across the world.

Their thermal insanity is plain through the list of things foisted upon a sweltering hemisphere: mine because I thought it was a good idea to write about them. So here are my favourite summer products, all just as welcome as a writ from SCO.

Loo Roll Printer
Shown at the last Ideal Home exhibition, it has only now come to light via the ever-alert Cory Doctorow at www.boingboing.net. Let me quote: "Fancy catching up with your emails? The Internet Loo Roll Browser is a novel and unique product designed to make best use of the time you spend on the loo! The product allows you to search the Internet whilst sitting on the toilet and print out any pages you are interested in on your toilet roll."

It's true that time spent in porcelain pondering is often very productive -- Martin Luther and St Augustine are just two of the people who changed the world with ideas that came out of the water closet. And as most printed material ends up as rubbish after only a single reading, it makes sense to produce it in readily recyclable form. Furthermore, it's a rare reader who hasn't at some time come across a missive of asinine vapidity and felt the urge to show how they felt: you can't crumple up a laptop screen and throw it across the room, but here's an alternative that's even more satisfying.

It is, however, wrong. There are places technology can and should go, and this ain't one. Besides, how exactly are you going to summon help when fatally compromised by a paper jam?

It had to happen – but why, oh Lord, in our lifetime...

Wi-Fi Chair
It was a very 70s thing, the habit of taking innocent objects and dumping them in blocks of clear acrylic to make quirky paperweights. Now Intel feels it has to go one step further, and has commissioned chairs made out of old network leads embedded in a sturdy yet transparent resin. The purpose, you will be intrigued to hear, is to demonstrate how we are moving on from a wired world to one where every thought and wish is mediated by Centrino.

The one trouble with this notable marriage between commerce and art is that colourful shapes embedded in a clear matrix always remind me of trifle. This is not a bad thing in itself -- I'm sure Intel is happy to be thought of in the same warm, fuzzy way as memories of childhood birthday parties -- but distracts me from highbrow thoughts about the aesthetic impact of wireless. Instead, I have learned to associate the word Centrino with thoughts of whipped cream and feeling slightly nauseous. The solution is for Intel to work with this, and sponsor Ben and Jerry's to create a range of network-centric ice creams. 802 dot L'Heaven, Silly Cone Choc Chip and Twisted Pear flavours spring to mind.

They could call it the Fab Line. D'you want wafers with that?

Blaster Worm
Thanks, Microsoft, for leaving that gaping hole. Cheers, ISPs, for routinely routing that port. Well done, worm writer, for taking advantage. Just what we wanted in the middle of this insane heat is a world full of mad computers.

On the plus side: it could have been a lot worse. It's kept otherwise underemployed computer support people busy, given desperate journalists lots to write about and once again thrown Microsoft's protestations about being security minded into sharp focus.

MS' Wobbly Wheel
Once upon a time, there was a mouse. It had one wheel, and one button. You moved the mouse and clicked the button, and things happened. Then Microsoft came along, and decided that if one button was good, two buttons were better -- then you had to know whether to right-click or left-click; and because most people didn't right-click every software writer thought they could put their own special selection of stuff there. So it got messy. Then Microsoft added a little rubber wheel on top, so you could move, click, and roll -- and if that wasn't enough, you could even click on the wheel, if you could possibly remember what that did.

And now, for a world already growing bulges in their skulls to accommodate the expanded finger control cortex, it's time for lateral displacement. Now the wheel wobbles from side to side, giving the average mouse no fewer than 127 combinations of twist and click.

The Unix family long ago settled for three buttons, on the grounds that if you make something easy to use, it only encourages users. Nice to see Microsoft well ahead of the game on this one.

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