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To his amazement, the man revealed he was in the US and that the laptop had been bought through an American-based eBay seller. It was less than a week after Swift had returned the item to Sainsbury's.It was then I realised just how much information a Windows 8 profile can access. When you first use it you have to set up a profile, says Swift.If you are an existing user your profile is automatically downloaded to the new computer – apps, settings and passwords, Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo!, BlackBerry, Gmail, etc. All your information, accessible in one single place.Alarmed that his ID details were exposed and he was at risk of fraud, Swift called Sainsbury's. The store reiterated that its policy was to return all laptops to the manufacturer for diagnostics. If they were to be resold they would first be refurbished and wiped clear, he was promised.Swift contacted the police, who warned him that he was now vulnerable to identity fraud, but said that at this stage it was still a civil matter.

As a result Swift spent the day changing all his passwords in a bid to halt any potential problems.He says that Sainsbury's has since struggled to explain what happened, nor can it tell him what has been done with the second laptop that he returned.Staff at the shop have been rather useless, apart from apologising a lot. The guy in America has stopped responding to me. You may want to warn others in the same boat to think carefully about how they return items, he told Guardian Money.Independent expert on IT security, Graham Cluley, says Swift is right to be concerned. It is vital, he says, to wipe all data (see his advice below) and the same is true of USB drives and mobile phones. One of the issues is that with Windows 8 a single password can be used to access multiple settings, he adds.Microsoft strongly encourages you to use an online Microsoft account to sign-in. That means if someone else manages to get your password, they cannot gain access to all kinds of settings and documents that you have chosen to sync between devices.He said such incidents aren't always the fault of the company selling the laptop. It can be that they've trusted a third-party organisation to handle the secure disposal of assets.When Money contacted Sainsbury's, it suggested that a third-party may be at fault.A spokesman says: We would like to apologise to Mr Swift for his experience. As soon as we were aware of his complaint we launched a thorough investigation and a third-party contractor working at one of our sites has now been suspended.We have passed the details of our investigation to police and are helping them with their inquiries.Google has launched an audacious attack on Microsoft, announcing laptop computers called Chromebooks that will use its own operating system – rather than Windows – will ship in June.

The machines will be made by Samsung and Acer, two companies that have previously made machines running Microsoft's software.The laptops will coordinate tightly with Google's cloud online services, and have almost no capacity to store information. Instead, the bare-bones operating system is essentially a web browser that steers users to applications like email and spreadsheets directly on the web, rather than storing software such as Outlook or Word directly on PCs.The move is Google's first directly onto Microsoft's home turf of PC operating systems and the Office suite software – a pair of monopolies that generate around $5bn of profits for the company every quarter. Until now it has largely avoided direct competition with Bill Gates's company on its strongest areas, focusing instead on internet areas such as search and webmail and online document services.The Chromebooks shift day-to-day functions onto the internet, removing what Google sees as the time-consuming burden of tasks associated with traditional PCs such as installing software and updates, backing up files and running antivirus checks, executives said.The complexity of managing your computer is torturing users, Google co-founder Sergey Brin said at the announcement at Google's IO conference in San Francisco. It's a flawed model fundamentally.

Chromebooks are a new model that doesn't put the burden of managing your computer on yourself.PC sales have grown steadily over the past 15 years, with brief dips during the recession, but there are signs of slowdowns, especially in Europe and the US, among consumers. Businesses are Microsoft's most loyal customers. Google is aiming at such enterprise customers, too, with the suggestion that their data will be safer in the cloud than on a PC that could get lost or stolen.The company will offer businesses its Chromebooks, along with technical support, as a hassle-free solution for $28 a month. The laptops, using processors made by Intel, will be available for order initially in the US on and Best Buy's online store from 15 June.As with Google's Android mobile operating system, the Chrome operating system (Chrome OS) will be free. The intention is that it will encourage people to spend more time on the internet – where they are more likely to use Google and so see or click on its adverts, because Google is the dominant provider of search adverts, with about 90% of world share.In another move encouraging people to move their computing off their PCs and onto the cloud, Google on Tuesday launched an online music locker service in the US letting users store and listen to their songs wherever they are.The operating system and Chromebook PCs expand on Google's web browser, also called Chrome, that competes against Microsoft's Internet Explorer. Earlier on Wednesday Google announced that there are 160m users of its Chrome browser, launched in September 2008.Microsoft boss Steve Ballmer ran quickly through a number of innovative Windows 7 PCs during his keynote, and one that got slightly more attention than most was Dell's Adamo XPS. This is billed as being the world's thinnest laptop, and at 9.9mm it's thinner than many mobile phones. It also has a very nice unlocking system, where you simply stroke the front of the lid so you can open it. Then, once you have opened it, it sits up, with the keyboard tilted at a more ergonomic typing angle.

The Adamo XPS has an excellent 13.4 inch LED widescreen, which shows the now-almost-standard (for ultraportables) 1366 x 768 pixels.One of the interesting innovations is that the motherboard and 128GB solid-state drive are behind the screen, not beneath the keyboard. This makes it possible both to fit ports and to have a really thin keyboard.The Adamo XPS looks original, and stylish, and feels well made -- though at 1.44kg, it's not the lightest ultraportable around. However, innovation comes at a price. In the UK, it looks as though John Lewis has a retail exclusive, and it will set you back £1,750.If Steve Jobs had been presenting the Adamo XPS, the first 50 rows of fanboys would probably have had multiple orgasms. I don't think he would have let a co-presenter say that Being thin isn't everything, even though that is, of course, perfectly true.Purists might complain that the Adamo XPS isn't all that new, because it appeared at the Windows 7 launch. But I suspect most people missed it in the flood of new PCs, and very few of us have had our hands on one.If you do get the chance, the Adamo XPS is worth a look.

But don't expect to see too many around the coffee shops. You can get lots of PCs that are almost as thin and have better battery life for a fraction of the price from the likes of Acer, Asus and MSI, and competitive systems from HP, Sony, Toshiba and others. Unlike MacBook Air buyers, Windows users have a vast array of choices, and just being thinner and more innovative than a MacBook Air doesn't earn you any sales at all.he sleekness of the gadgets that dominate our lives gives little hint of the chaos that lies beneath – not just their innards, which include rare-earth materials such as neodymium (magnets) and europium (which makes your phone glow), but their backstories. Most of these materials are mined in Baotou, Inner Mongolia, a place described as the apocalypse.Add on conflict minerals such as cassiterite, gold, wolframite, cobalt and coltan from the Congo, plus the damage from huge pits and deep tunnels. The manufacture of gadgets is energy-hungry, too.

Experts extrapolating data from one of the world's largest dam projects suggest it takes 50,000 litres of water passing through a hydroelectric dam to smelt the aluminium for a single laptop. This means, they say, 3ft2 of rainforest is flooded per laptop.As new aluminium equals energy use and environmental destruction, this raises the question: why can't computers be made from recycled aluminium, given that this uses 95% less energy? And why can't laptops and PCs be built for disassembly (where all the parts come apart to aid recycling)? Depressingly, some commentators think the tech stars are heading the other way, citing the MacBook Air as being extremely integrated. The harder it is to get at the components, the harder it is to recycle. So praise, please, for the Xi3® Modular™ computer. Not only does it use 80-90% less power than a similar desktop PC, but it is modular, and its casing is made of recycled aluminium.In addition, accounts have emerged recently of factories producing major brands that sound – with their dormitories and oppressive guards – similar to badly run prisons.You could say we're all enslaved by gadgets. Brands and consumers prioritise perfection over people (and planet). So ethi-tech (as I'm calling a hoped-for sustainable technological revolution) has yet to get going.Ethical Consumer magazine carries ratings tables for laptops, tablets and phones, but remember that the world chucks away 20-50m tonnes of e-waste a year. Is your computer really dead? Or do you just fancy a new one? Having it refurbished in a factory may not be an answer, because you can't be sure of working conditions. But iFixit ( is a free, editable online repair manual for gadgets from toasters to iPods. That's the smartest idea I've heard so far.

Recent TV exposés of the funeral industry uncovered appalling disrespect towards our dead. They left some viewers wondering exactly what ethics some conventional undertakers have left. The Natural Death Handbook provides a real alternative. Edited by Ru Callender of the Green Funeral Company, it's a strangely uplifting set of three books, including essays on death by Bill Drummond and Maggi Hambling. The final book is a directory of green funeral directors, coffin suppliers and the like. It costs £24 from and good bookshopsThis week the remains of the laptop used to store files leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, pointlessly but symbolically destroyed by Guardian editors under the eyes of GCHQ, have been put on display at the V&A, a museum of art and design.It forms part of the All of this Belongs to You exhibition, open until 19 July. Through a series of interventions and installations, it aims to examine “the role of public institutions in contemporary life” and to ask “what it means to be responsible for a national collection”. It raises questions about democracy, as we run up to the election, and about institutional and curatorial practice.

A curator, Kieran Long, said that they gained the confidence to show the remains when it was recalled that the museum had broken objects in its own collection, which had been preserved because of the stories they told rather than the artefact’s intrinsic beauty or interest. Thus it now forms part of a display on technology, secrecy and privacy.Yet, interestingly, the decision was made to show just the laptop and not the other bits of destroyed hardware, as the images above and below show. This is presumably a reflection of the iconic power of Apple products themselves, something that goes beyond the Snowden and Guardian story. Perhaps the ubiquity of the object means that its destruction speaks to us all.I haven’t yet seen the exhibition, but when I saw the photograph of the laptop on display - the shiny, desirable MacBook reduced to twisted metal and circuitry - I was keen to gauge reactions and asked some friends and colleagues, beyond the V&A itself, for theirs. All are expert in thinking about the history and display of objects, particularly ones related to science, technology and medicine. I am grateful for their comments, which provoke thought about technology, society and the role of museum collections and display.
It is difficult for museums to exhibit the public sphere of debate and openness. It’s an even greater challenge when the public sphere exists inside our cellphones and laptops and in the circulation of bits over fiberoptic cables.One way to display it is to focus on a point of attack, on the failure of the public sphere. The V&A exhibition of the shockingly defaced laptop that once contained National Security Agency secrets reveals that something has gone wrong. Why is a museum known for beautiful artefacts showing an act of violence? That the destruction was purely symbolic magnifies the impact.I applaud the V&A curators for the display. I do wish they could have let themselves change their museum label style just a bit. It’s not important where the laptop was designed or manufactured. Couldn’t they have replaced that with the more relevant information: “Destroyed in London, 2013.”Steven Lubar is Professor of American Studies, History, and History of Art and Architecture at Brown University and was Director of the John Nicholas Brown Center for Public Humanities and Cultural Heritage from 2004-2014 and Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology, 2010-2012.


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