The Weekly Round-Up: Grubby gadgets, multitasking maniacs and embarrassing virus writers

When nature calls, so does the boss...
Written by The Round-Up, Contributor on

When nature calls, so does the boss...

Pity the poor shiny gadgets, with their elegant curves and perky little icons.

Designed to be the epitome of elegance, they emerge from their packaging in a state of gleaming perfection, full of marvellous potential.

Sadly it's all downhill from there, from the first moment grubby fingers paw at them, leaving greasy fingerprints on their hitherto pristine surfaces.

The best a mobile phone can hope for is to be shoved in a pocket and scratched with keys and coins, while laptops must resign themselves to being slowly filled with crumbs as their unthinking users munch unpleasantly-odoured snack foods while tapping away at the keyboard.

But for some, alas, a greater indignity is in store. In a survey out this week, one in three people admit to making a 'stall-call' - that is, using their mobile phone on the toilet. Apparently such behaviour is now so common it is just about acceptable these days - after all, sometimes when nature calls, so does the boss.

To top it off, one in 20 of those quizzed say they have taken their laptop into the smallest room to surf the web, presumably while searching the internet for 'laxatives'. Considering that some people are somewhat reluctant to confess to their own dirty habits when asked about them, expect the number of loo surfers to be even higher than that.

A mind-boggling eight per cent also admitted to cleaning their teeth while on the loo, and the same percentage said they ate or drank there too.

Yuck. The Round-Up wants to go and wash its hands just for typing that sentence (unlike the one in 10 in the survey who also said they 'sometimes', 'occasionally' or 'never' washed their hands after visiting the loo). Yuck again.

John Nuttall, managing director of the Co-operative Pharmacy, which conducted the survey, warned that the new trend of using smartphones in addition to laptops on the toilet "is inadvertently raising the risk of the spread of infections, which affect hundreds of thousands of people".

The Round-Up has often seen people heading to the loo, newspaper in hand (nearly half of the people surveyed admitted to this) but has never seen anyone heading to the conveniences with their laptop tucked nonchalantly under their arm, nor heard a giveaway tap-tap-tap coming from any of the stalls.

Then again, silicon.com has written before about broadband companies laying cables in the sewers, so perhaps there's plenty of bandwidth to be had in toilet cubicles these days.

And a word of warning to those who are planning to stall-surf: just watch where you put your USB stick or it could end up being a flash in the pan...

Just in case the preceding item hadn't already proved this, we're turning into a nation of multitaskers.

We are spending almost half of our waking hours watching TV, using mobiles and updating Facebook and Twitter. No wonder we have to update blogs from the bog - it's the only way to cram all that media consumption in.

We're sending four times as many texts per day than in 2004, spending almost a quarter of our time on the internet on social networking sites and spending three hours and 45 minutes per day watching TV.

And as for that multitasking, we're doing the impossible and cramming eight hours and 48 minutes of consumption into just over seven hours during the average day, according to figures from Ofcom.

Inevitably it's the kids that are leading the way. Among 16 to 24 year olds, almost a third of their media activity is simultaneous - that is, tweeting while Facebooking, listening to Spotify and fragging buddies on Xbox live.

That's compared to just over one eighth for people aged over 55 who manage simultaneous media consumption (and for whom most of the previous sentence was largely incomprehensible anyway).

Surfing the internet via mobile phones is the fastest growing mobile media activity, with Facebook the most popular mobile internet site. And of course at this juncture the Round-Up feels obliged to point out that silicon.com is of course on Twitter, Facebook, and (for the suits) LinkedIn. None of which will be updated from the loo, honest, but all of which are an excellent way to keep up with the silicon.com team during the week.

And finally this week - do you know what bugs you are spreading? The Round-Up is not referring here to the 10 per cent mentioned above who don't bother washing their hands, but to the lazy PC owners that don't bother to install basic antivirus on their devices. Although, quite possibly, they're the same people.

silicon.com's editor has whipped up a storm by arguing against zombie PCs and their zombie owners: PCs enslaved by botnets and the owners too lazy to fix the problem.

The argument goes - just as nasty diseases lead to public inoculation programmes, we've now reached the point where antivirus and basic firewalls should be mandatory on all PCs connected to the internet in order to stop the constant flow of virus infections. That seems like a sensible idea (although if you disagree feel free to add to the growing list of reader comments).

But the Round-Up - never one to choose the sensible option if given another choice - would like to suggest it's a problem of terminology, not technology. Giving all these internet nasties menacing names like 'virus' and 'botnet' is giving the virus-writing industry a veneer of cool which it doesn't deserve. An 'interwebnet sniffle-wiffle writer' doesn't sound anywhere near as terrifying.

If you think of new names describing what viruses, botnets and all the rest do, but at the same time render them ridiculous, let us know.

In other news this week: whether you love it or hate it, Internet Explorer has been with us 15 years. Take a nostalgic (or rage-filled) journey down memory lane with the photo story here.

And find out how the Naked CIO is facing up to the ghosts of disastrous IT projects past in order to build a rosy future for the tech department.

And as ever, check out the excellent links below - enough entertainment to keep you going until 5.30pm at least.

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