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Howard Stern's Net Muscle

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LEONARDO DICAPRIO HAS been laid low by a dwarf--and the vagaries of Internet polling. Early vote tallies in People magazine's third annual online poll of the "Most Beautiful People" has Hank the Angry, Drunken Dwarf as online readers' favorite, with 212,313 votes as of May 4, vs. lovely Leo's 12,885.

Is it a blowout of titanic proportions? More likely, it's an example of the power of Howard Stern. Hank, a guest on Stern's radio show, began showing up in the poll on Apr. 23 as a write-in vote after Stern's fans urged people, through Web-site postings and E-mail missives, to vote for him. Officials at Howard Stern's show declined to comment.

Online surveys that allow people to write in votes make it even more difficult than usual to ensure that those taking part are representative of the overall population, says David Krane, executive vice-president at Louis Harris & Associates Inc.

If Hank maintains his lead when voting ends on May 8, he'll have his life story published on the Web site--though he won't make it into the magazine.EDITED BY HEATHER GREENReturn to top


THERE ARE MANY WAYS for notebook PCs to die. There's the classic fall from the overhead compartment of an airplane and, of course, soda spills. Then there are the more creative deaths, from kids' vomit and dog slobber. In any case, the repercussions are serious--accounts lost, business opportunities missed, and hours of productivity gone, not to mention the expense.

Reliability is a growing problem as businesses increasingly depend on a fleet of road warriors using laptops. Market researcher International Data Corp. estimates that more than 30 million notebook PCs will be in use by 2002, up from 5.7 million last year. So Panasonic Personal Computer Co., a maker of rugged notebook PCs, commissioned IDC to do an in-depth study of notebook-PC damage and reliability at 350 midsize and large companies.

The findings: At any time, as many as 18% of a company's army of notebook PCs are in disrepair, ranging from faulty hard- disk drives to cracked screens to software problems. IDC figures notebook-PC damage will cost businesses more than $700 million this year and will exceed $1 billion by 2000. Researchers suggest that companies need to become more aware of the state of notebook PCs in their fleets. As many as 85% of those surveyed indicated that they do not even track notebook-PC downtime.EDITED BY HEATHER GREENReturn to top


WHAT ARE INVENTORS TO DO when they just plain get stuck? No new ideas, no cries of "Eureka!" from the bathtub? Well, IBM's research scientists now have a little spiral-bound book of 56 tips to try. Sort of like the Tao for people who think about computers all day.

The tips range from the pedestrian to the surreal. In the interest of furthering scientific research, a sampling:

"Clean your desk."

"Go backpacking."

"Shut the door. Practice shooting rubber bands at targets in your office."

"Reread your favorite book from childhood."

"Ponder something else. For example, if a belt were placed around the equator, and then had six meters of length added to it, and you grabbed it at a point and lifted it until all the slack was gone, how high above the earth's surface would you be?" If you figure it out, let IBM's big thinkers know at BY HEATHER GREENReturn to top

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