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Living the laptop-less life

Laptops are the new desktops. They're also the new fire risk and the new security headache. Time to get smart, not scorched
Written by Leader , Contributor

Laptops are addictive. The magic of flipping one open on a plane or train for a dose of personal video, audio or interactive entertainment hasn't worn off. Some people even use them for work.

However, two separate events in the last week risk weakening that dependence on our flat-packed friends. The terrorist threat to UK flights bound for the US last Thursday banished laptops to the isolation and dangers of the hold, and their owners to the isolation and dangers of in-flight entertainment. That's enough to make anyone sane reconsider business travel altogether.

That ban was soon relaxed — unlike laptop users this week.  A story that has been smouldering for months finally burst into life. After numerous fragmented reports of exploding laptops, Dell recalled 4.1 million Lithium-ion laptop batteries. As with all Dell's components, the batteries are manufactured by another company — in this case Sony — which is sharing the costs of what may be the biggest technology recall in the history of the electronics industry.

Terrorism may keep laptops out of aircraft, but the Dell recall taints the technology itself. Li-ion batteries are being touted as possible greener and safer replacements for the petrol engine in cars, but any energy-storage medium has inherent dangers. Scares like Dell's help us keep that in mind.

There are alternatives to carrying kilograms of expensive combustible technology everywhere. Ubiquitous broadband access to secure hosted applications, used in combination with smart-phones or other compact devices, is a distant but ultimately more intelligent approach to working on the move. Unfortunately that mode isn't going to happen any time soon, so we'll have to make do with laptops and just keep our fingers crossed — and, in the case of heat-induced sterility, our legs crossed as well.

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