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Sod ‘Things’, we’re getting the Internet of Furbys

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Something for the Weekend, Sir? Regular readers of this column, those of you who have have suspiciously too much time on their hands on a Friday afternoon will be aware that I am a IT fraud.

Compooters are kinda fun and my second-favourite idea for a perfect Sunday afternoon might involve a bit of screwdriver surgery on a troublesome device, but I don't really understand the physics behind it all. All I'm doing is fiddling about.

Terrifying video of The Who drummer Keith Moon playing a paedophile in cult classic film Tommy

Oh dear, Uncle Ernie doesn't seem quite as funny now as he used to be. I can't imagine why, but please excuse me a sec while I drop my Lostprophets CDs in the shredder.

Anyway, despite being something of a simpleton when it comes to grown-up tech, I am a member of IEEE. And if there's one thing that has caught the imagination of the tie-wearing engineers at the moment, it's the so-called Internet of Things. I say 'so-called' because that's what it's called. So.

Most of this stuff zooms right over my head. So I was pleased to read a sysadmin's recent take on The Reg the other day on the implications that the Internet of Things will have on your home and contents insurance policy.

This is my idea, at least, of what cutting-edge technology really does for humanity. Ultimately, it simply provides more ways for The Man to roger your bank account with the kind of unsavoury eagerness that would make inflating a JCB tyre with a bicycle pump in less than 30 seconds seem graceful. But as I said, this is possibly because I don't understand the physics.

To me, the Internet of Things is the Furby in your child's bedroom. Having cost you the best part of two ponies, the furry little bastard sits there motionless and silent doing fuck all for weeks on end making you think the batteries have run out, then when you're on your own in the house at 2am watching The Exorcist on Sky Classics, it springs to life screaming “Fuuuurrrrrrbeeeee!”

Basically, the Internet of Things involves making us pay for electronic devices that you don’t need which repay your generosity by silently biding their time waiting for you to let your guard down before grabbing you by the throat and dragging your soul to hell. Or making you nearly shit yourself in front of the telly.

They’re evil, I tell you. As Tristran would say: “Burn the witch!”

Burn the witch Youtube clip

Frustratingly, the surface concept Internet of Things is also very seductive. These are devices – sorry, I mean Things (must stick to the technical term) – that look after themselves so that you don’t have to waste any more of your remaining minutes of life programming your lightbulbs to turn on and off to the unique sound of your farts.

What makes it so seductive is that we have come to assume that every shiny new product has Internet intelligence built into it in some way. I nearly made a fool of myself recently when buying the new album by True Ingredients on the basis that the funky band in question was distributing its music not on CD but on sunglasses. I thought this meant the sunglasses were some kind of audio player with er, over-ear headphones.

I mean, it has to be. Even the band’s logo initials ‘TI’ are a not-so-subtle inversion of ‘IT’. I nod knowingly and click on the PayPal ‘purchase’ button.

The sunglasses turn up and, for sure, they are quite big. They must be stuffed with electronics. Here I am wearing them and looking extraordinarily cool and not minding at all that I ordered the Tomato Red frames:

Dabbsy: looking extraordinarily cool

Dabbsy: "looking extraordinarily cool"

If you don’t think I’m looking cool, compare it to what I normally look like:

Dabbsy - looking normal

Looking normal, apparently

Here I am still looking cool even though the cat has peed in my slippers:

Dabbsy: looking cool under duress

Looking, ahem, cool under duress

As it turns out, the sunglasses are not an Internet Thing. Nor are they electronic in any way. They are sunglasses.

You can just imagine the deadpan response from the person on the helpline if I’d made that support call. “There’s a code printed on each pair. Enter the code on the website. Download the MP3s. Put them on your iPod. Listen to them. Can I be of further assistance.” <click> wurrrrrrrrrrrrr…

If the sunglasses were an Internet Thing, they wouldn’t play audio, they’d self-adjust the darkness of the lenses according to the weather forecast. Some say that’s a good thing, and it may be so.

My problem is that my self-aware web specs won’t be picking up any Wi-Fi on the beach. So instead of being an Internet Thing, they will become ordinary sunglasses again. Or do I have to purchase a 4G subscription for my specs for unbroken coverage?

What next? Internet shoes? Auto-calibrating Y-fronts? Capacitive sensing toilet paper?

Given the troubles I am having getting a decent Internet pipe installed at work (see last week’s column), the whole point of an Internet of Things is blunted right from the start. Without reliable Internet access, half the stuff wouldn’t work and the rest would run at a crawl. I’d walk into the room and have to fart really slowly in order to put the lights on – which is an interesting challenge when you’re trying to illuminate a large open-plan area.

Good job the Internet windows will then open automatically. Always a silver lining, eh? ®

Alistair DabbsAlistair Dabbs is a freelance technology tart, juggling IT journalism, editorial training and digital publishing. By having his photo published here showing him wearing TI shades, Alistair now rubs shoulders with the likes of Snoop Dog. How thrilled Snoop must be to learn this.

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

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