And the Bonehead goes to ...

By now you are probably familiar with the Darwin Awards for "individuals who contributed to the improvement of our gene pool by removing themselves from it in a really stupid way". You can read all the gory details at www.darwinawards.com, but I believe it's time for an IT-specific award for the neuronally-challanged. It's easy to be critical (and lots of fun), but remember that people who make dodgy decisions about the development or application of technology are spoiling the fun for the whole team. They only make computers look dumber than humans, which is no mean feat.

In the absence of an industry figurehead willing to lend a name to these awards - à la the Logies - I've decided to call them the Boneheads, which pretty much speaks for itself.

The first Bonehead is coloured bronze and goes to the former director of the CIA, John M. Deutch. John kept thousands of highly-classified US government documents on his home PC - which also happened to be connected to America Online and Citibank's online banking system. He obviously ignored all those pedantic references to "national security" in his job description. Deutch received e-mail from a former Russian scientist, and "forensic experts" determined that his PC had been used to visit Web sites that held pornography, although "Deutch was not at home when the pornographic sites were visited". Yeah, right, always blame the kid. Well done, John, you're a true Bonehead.

The Silver Bonehead goes to a corporate and is bound to cause a stir amongst the brethren: the award goes to Apple Computer for creating the "ice-hockey puck" mouse bundled with its iMacs.

If you've yet to have the pleasure, the iMac mouse is round, flattish and hits for six the notion that a computer mouse might actually fit the human hand. I've read one apologetic for the puck that says it's perfectly ergonomic and things only go awry when you try to grab the sucker - you're not meant to hold it, you're supposed to lightly push it around with a thumb and finger. If that's true, exactly why Apple sought to change an accepted method of driving a computer - even its own variants - is hard to fathom. iMac users are queuing to buy puck alternatives, and the peripherals vendors are queuing to take their money. What a pity - if Apple didn't have a track record of "interesting" design decisions, you might think the hockey puck was a candy-coloured form of planned obsolescence.

Now for the main event: the less-than-coveted Gold Bonehead goes to . . . well, there are thousands of you (so you can bet there won't be any real gold in the attractive Bonehead statuettes). The Gold Bonehead goes to anyone who was infected by the Love Bug virus.

The media had a field day in early May, didn't they? Day after day of front-page news, and only one year after the Melissa virus. You'd think people (sorry, boneheads) would have got the idea by now: don't launch funny-looking attachments in funny-looking e-mails, no matter who they're from. As a Microsoft security spokeswoman so aptly put it: "Be leery of dubious e-mail." Even if you didn't recognise the Visual Basic extension, wouldn't you be just a tad suspicious of a "love letter" with VBS tacked on the end, and one that so formally says "kindly check" the attachment?

The secret of the amazing distribution of this virus was that it got inside companies and government departments and ricocheted around e-mail servers, courtesy of staff address books that all referenced one another. And the superheated office environment of gossip and slander - completely normal in most workplaces - ensured its success. It tapped into our natural desire for romance and maybe even love! "Ooohhh a love letter from Roger in Accounts! What a big spunk!! I'll just open it . . ." Can you imagine the virus being as successful if it had said "kindly check the attached Olympic synchronised swimming timetable"?

Fortunately, a Californian "rejection expert" has put the Love Bug kerfuffle in its correct social context, as reported by the venerable Internettrash.com. It seems the virus may cause couples to break up permanently. Dr Deborah Cooper believes lovers are sending e-mails, which innocently contain "I Love You" in the subject heading - but if virus-fearing recipients delete the message without realising it's a true missive of passion, the sender could feel rejected or even suicidal.

Now, although I have created the whole concept of the Boneheads (hands off www.bonehead.com all you domain name jockies!), you've probably got your own ideas on who could put a Bonehead on the mantelpiece. I'm all ears.

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MARK STAFFORD

PC World
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