The 21 biggest technology mistakes of 2006

It was a year where the world's biggest software company had to admit its flagship operating system was going to be delayed--yet again. And the number one PC manufacturer was caught spying on reporters and board members.

In 2006, turning on your laptop was an adventure in flammability. Of course, lots of government and corporate officials didn't have to worry about their notebook bursting into flames--they'd already lost theirs--along with the personal records of millions of Americans.

Surfing the Net you stood a good chance of being hoaxed by an actress pretending to be a lonely teenager or a blogger in the employ of the planet's largest retailer. If you subscribed to AOL, your searches might have been shared with the rest of the Web. And if you did anything stupid, somebody with a video camera and a YouTube account was probably there to broadcast it to the world.

Here, then, on the following pages we humbly offer our nominations for the biggest tech mistakes of the year. (And if you notice any errors in this article, please--keep them to yourself.)

Biggest mistakes

1. Assault with batteries

When 62-year old Thomas Forqueran and a buddy were packing up from a Nevada fishing trip last July, he left his Dell Inspiron 1300 notebook in the cab of his 1966 Ford pickup. Soon Forqueran smelled smoke, then saw flames shooting out of the passenger window. Within moments the fire hit three boxes of ammunition stored in the glove box. Forqueran and his buddy ducked for cover as bullets whizzed by and the gas tank exploded .

Several flaming laptops made headlines in 2006, but it was Forqueran's story that pushed Dell to recall 4.1 million laptops containing Sony lithium ion batteries. Apple, IBM/Lenovo, Toshiba, and others soon followed, and laptop makers vowed to build a safer lithium ion battery by July 2007.

Big mistake: Buying anything powered by a Sony lithium ion battery.

Bigger mistake: Packing your laptop next to the ammo.

2. Spying the HP way

Hiring private eyes to illegally obtain phone records, putting reporters under surveillance, digging through their trash, planting tracking bugs in their e-mail, and mulling plans to place informants inside newsrooms--the HP corporate spying scandal had a Watergate-style stink on it that an ocean of perfume couldn't wash away.

But deposed HP chair Patricia Dunn's Congressional testimony on the matter, which ranged from pleas of ignorance to haughty self-righteousness, had its own lingering aroma.

Dunn and other HP executives were ultimately forced to resign; the California State Attorney General's office has charged her and four others with fraud, identity theft, and conspiracy.

Big mistake: Spying on reporters, board members, and their families.

Bigger mistake: Not renting the DVD of "All the President's Men."

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Dan Tynan

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