Two thumbs down for BlackBerry

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By  Published  November 25, 2006

Business executives across the world have been struck down by a debilitating new condition — BlackBerry Thumb.

The hugely popular handheld device from Research in Motion (RIM), which has been dubbed CrackBerry because of its addictive qualities, is said to induce the condition because of the way it is held by users.

Professor Alan Hedge, an ergonomics specialist at Cornell University in New York State, US, told the Cnet news service the condition is caused by “highly repetitive, forceful thumb movements with the thumbs held back from the palms.”

The symptoms of the condition include pain in the thumb and in the region around the base of the thumb and hand.

Treatment for the condition consists of strapping or resting the thumb, taking anti-inflammatory medicines, cortisone injections and, as a last resort, surgery. Andrew Morton, an occupational therapist at the University Hospital in Ontario, Canada, told Cnet that more and more incidences of the condition were likely to emerge as BlackBerry use increased.

He recommended preventative measures, such as holding the device comfortably in the hands and close to the body and not typing for more than five minutes without a break.

Meanwhile, the Hyatt Hotel chain has found a novel way to make money out of the problem. It is offering a BlackBerry Balm hand massage at most of its North American spas.

Plug-in heaters

While American users seem to be struggling with their BlackBerry Thumb, in Japan the problem seems to be more one of keeping other extremities warm enough. Continuing the country’s tradition of creating weird and wonderful gadgets, a group of Japanese inventors have found a new purpose for the USB port on PCs. They have designed a range of heated items which can be plugged into the USB and are designed for users in chilly climates.

These range from heated mouse mats to gloves and slippers which contain built in heating elements that are activated by the USB port.

The items are being sold at Japan’s Rare Mono Shop where the USB slippers can be purchased for US$30 a pair, the gloves for US$21 and the heated mousemat at US$21.

How long before we see a heated pad designed to help relieve BlackBerry Thumb pain?

Virtual reality

IBM is to invest US$10million in pushing into virtual worlds — including the popular 3D online universe Second Life.

Second Life, where Reuters opened a bureau last month, has over one million registered users and a well-established economy and currency with the equivalent of US$1million changing hands there daily.

IBM already has the biggest presence there of any other company and uses Second Life for meetings and training sessions. It plans to massively expand its presence in virtual universes and claims to be already holding meeting meetings and conducting development inside virtual worlds with around 20 major clients.

Whiffy complaint

Spare a thought for data rescue specialist OnTrack. The company has just released its latest list of unusual data loss cases and it appears that on a number of occasions, the brave OnTrack team had to hold its nose while dealing with customer problems; choice entries included a rotten banana and a load of smelly socks.

In the case of the banana, one user left the fruit on top of his hard drive, which then turned rotten and seeped through the device, ruining the circuits as well as the drive.

Then there was the case of the customer who sent this broken hard drive to the company — wrapped in a pair of dirty socks. The socks failed to prevent the drive from further damage as well as wafting their unpleasant aroma around the OnTrack office.

Another strange case involved a university professor no less, who decided to fix the squeaky noise from the drive of his new desktop by opening up the case and spraying WD-40 into it. The squeaking stopped — as did the drive.

Other rescue missions highlighted included a number of ‘what do I tell the boss’ situations, the best one concerning workers from a global telecoms company who managed to drop a laptop computer while working in Monaco. From a helicopter.

Jim Reinert, senior director of software and services at OnTrack, claimed that in all cases the data was successfully rescued. He also suggested users who had damaged their hard drives should have them evaluated properly because there were good chances of recovery.

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