News of the weird: the strangest ever tech stories

Laptops that smell of pee

Some conversations should never take place, whether that’s parents explaining the whips in their bedroom to their kids, or customers ringing Dell to ask why their laptop smells of cat urine. Sadly, that’s what folk were forced to do when their Latitude 6430u laptops booted up.

I thought one of my cats sprayed it

“I thought one of my cats sprayed it, but there was something faulty with it so I had it replaced,” said Hoteca. “The next one had the same issue. It’s embarrassing taking it to clients because it smells so bad.”

“A few weeks ago I got a new Latitude 6430u,” user Three West complained on Dell’s support forum. “The machine is great, but it smells as if it was assembled near a tomcat’s litter box. It is truly awful!”

What’s brilliant about this comment is that, despite owning a laptop that makes their eyes water, Three West still gives it a thumbs up. Only in tech does such fetishism happen. If the devil opened a tech company called Satansung and started building laptops out of hot coals and blackened teeth, there would still be people defending it. “Yeah, the screen’s sucking my soul out through my eyes, but otherwise it’s brilliant.”

As complaints flooded in, Dell’s customer service department diligently rolled up their script to swat them away. Customers were told to clean out laptop vents and give them a good scrub, before someone realised turning the PC off and on probably wouldn’t cut it this time. An investigation followed, and Dell discovered the odour was a by-product of manufacturing and nothing to do with cat wee at all.

Sloshed PCs hit the wine

Intel introduced wine-powered computing back in September 2013. Although the notion of a PC slumped in a corner with booze on its shirt is attractive, the reality is more prosaic: Intel has created a machine that requires so little power it can run off the chemical energy in a glass of Malbec.

To be fair, that energy doesn’t get you much – only a CPU, accelerometer and wireless networking. A Nintendo Wii, basically.
While the idea sounds daft in isolation – who’d waste good wine on a computer? – Intel’s Genevieve Bell explained the potential for “computing solutions so low[-powered] that in the future we’ll be able to power them with the heat of our skins, or the ambient light in the room.”

Which is ironic, because if a PC powered by booze is anything like a human powered by booze, the ambient light in the room will be greeted with desperate pleas to shut the curtains.

Cloudy with a chance of comedy

What’s remarkable about Syrian hackers storming the BBC Weather Twitter feed is discovering that there is such a thing in the first place.

We can only assume it’s run from a dusty corner of the BBC, manned by a forgotten soul who never looks anybody in the eye. We shall call this man Rupert Goodweather, whose work was interrupted back in March 2013 when Syrian hackers took over the feed and began, well, telling jokes.

“Earthquake warning for Qatar: Hamad bin Khalifa about to exit vehicle,” ran one tweet, referencing a ruling member of the Qatari royal family. While it’s never nice to be mean about people’s weight, it is true that the then-ruling Emir of Qatar Hamad bin Khalifa appears to enjoy a pie or nine.

Mind you, they didn’t only rain on Goodweather’s parade. The Syrian Electronic Army also claimed responsibility for attacks on President Obama’s personal Twitter feed and The New York Times, which tells you how highly they must rate BBC Weather. Strangely, most of BBC Weather’s Twitter followers found the new coverage to be a breath of fresh air, which begs the question why they were following it in the first place. It’s a mist-ery to us.

McAfee founder is dead! Maybe

Did you hear about John McAfee’s death? He did, which must have been a little disconcerting for the wild man of anti-malware.

After building one of the biggest antivirus brands, McAfee decided to relocate from the US to Belize in 2009, enjoying the freedom to live in almost utter isolation with seven women in an armed compound. “Living with one woman is horrific,” he explained. “Living with two is nightmarish, but you get past five and suddenly they’re entertaining themselves, really.”

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