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Beer, cigarettes, crisps make it hard to use laptops in pubs

(With apologies to Walter S. Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal)

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There's few major items we own that are as confusing, unpredictable and reliable as our personal computers. And it's even harder when you have to use them in your pub. Q. This may sound daft, but is there any inherent danger in using my laptop in my local? I'm in there for most of the afternoon, and would love to use my notebook while I'm quaffing some ale. A. I'm not sure whether to envy you your lifestyle or to pity you for being the sad lush you obviously are. There are inherent dangers in using your notebook in the boozer and they're not as obvious as you might think. Besides the danger of crisp particulates entering your keyboard, the obvious danger of spilling your pint of London Pride over a £2,000 machine, and the weird looks you'll get from everybody, there are some hidden problems too. First of all, if you're able to connect to the Internet at The Mason's Arms, after six pints of Pride you might feel you want to send abusive email to your boss. This is counterproductive, and could result in unexpected job opportunities in the future. Secondly, laptops have limited battery lives. Plugging your machine into the socket by the bar is not likely to be welcomed by the landlord or landlady of the pub. The best suggestion I can make is to buy a hood or shade that will cover your head, and so make the screen of your notebook unreadable. Q. Where would I go to find out which laptops will stand up to the salt water environment produced when I burst into tears? I get no help from Web sites. A. Sigh. Another reader with a bit of a problem. I doubt that regular notebooks will resist a full sized blub, but there are some specialised machines that are coated in tear resistant and corrosion resistant materials. I would suggest that you avoid situations where you are likely to feel emotionally fraught. Don't work for any of the major IT vendors, for example. Attention, non-techies Don't be embarrassed by your problems with computers. If you have a question, send it to me at Szechuan Publishing and I may select it to be answered here. Just remember: you're not a "dummy," no matter what those computer books claim. The real dummies are the people who, though technically expert, couldn't design hardware and software that's usable by normal consumers if their lives depended upon it. ®

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