Return of the RIPA and Dell's total recall

Best of Talkback: From exploding laptops to the police demanding our encryption keys, it's been another busy week in tech
Written by Best Of Talkback, Contributor

It may be the summer silly season, but there are still some juicy stories out there grabbing your attention. The best one has to be the news that Dell is recalling around 4.1 million laptop batteries after some users reported machines inexplicably catching fire.

Battery-recall shocker: Some of you have reacted sceptically to claims from other PC manufacturers, who also use the Sony batteries at the centre of the scare, that their machines are robust enough to prevent similar incidents occurring.

"Don't assume that this has anything to do with the real problem with the recalled Sony batteries. Statements by 'Japan's PC makers' are designed to calm jittery shareholders. Dell has been responsible in issuing the recall on so many Sony batteries. We shall see whether other makers have built-in safeguards or are just sticking their heads in the sand. I have seen nothing so far to suggest that the battery problem is in any way linked to AC adapters or rate of charging." — Anonymous

"Assuming this problem is unique to Dell it sounds as if the design of their charger circuitry is at fault — not the batteries," suggested reader Ian Edwards.

RIP innocent until proven guilty: The other big story this week is the news that police are trying to extend their powers under the RIP Act to force individuals to relinquish encryption keys. The bad news is that genuinely losing a key is no defence from prosecution, as failure to produce a key could result in up to five years' imprisonment.

Some leading UK experts believe the law is flawed, and ZDNet UK's readers agree.

"So we are to believe that terrorists, paedophiles and burglars are computer-savvy enough to encrypt their data to such an extent that it can't be decrypted by one of the zillions of freely downloadable decrypt programs available on the Internet (never mind the commercial professional decrypt programs and tactics the best our tax money can buy) yet at the same time are computer-ignorant enough to not resort to seemingly meaningless file names and getting rid of log files (for which there are also zillions of freely downloadable tools available) and in general are not able to cover their tracks?" — Arthur B

In answer to Arthur B's suggestion that those "savvy" enough to use encryption would also use steganography to hide their guilty secrets, Ron B (no relation) pointed out that: "Actually, if the forensics folks are already looking at a suspicious computer, it is far easier to find hidden files then to decrypt them if properly encrypted".

Technically illiterate: We've been blown away by how much this story on grammatical mistakes has readers buzzing. It seems that literacy is just as important to many of you as technical accuracy. The idea that email and text messaging are eroding literacy levels seems hard to believe, given how much of the ZDNet UK community is enraged by poor grammar and spelling.

"Thank you for the article, I am thrilled to see at least one other person in the world who has decided that 'impact' used as a verb is impacting proper usage. Kudos!", said one reader.

Another contributed: "Here is another of my pet peeves: 'I could care less about X'. Although it is not a grammatical error in the normal sense, I also really dislike that particular phrase by which some people express their disinterest. It seems to originate from the USA, but it can also now be seen in use by other nationalities who have picked up the phrase from the Americans."

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