Cases are appearing around Asia which seem to confirm fears about computer games stunting the growth of children's brains. Daniel Tan Thiam Soon, a 21-year-old, was enjoying a network game of Half-Life: Counter-Strike (which was banned briefly in Singapore) in a Singapore cybercafe. Much to his annoyance, his character suddenly found itself dead, as is a fairly common occurrence in these games. Our Mr Tan wasn't one to take such a blow lying down. Instead, he demanded to know which player had fragged him, then walked over to his assailant and stabbed him. Meanwhile in Thailand, a Chiang-Mai factory worker literally played the game to death last week. Thanet Sommoi, 22, left work on Wednesday and headed for his local cybercafe for a good shoot-em-up session. After playing until noon the next day, his heart gave up and he died at the keyboard. In each story reporting the deaths, the involvement of drugs generally was overlooked, or relegated to the last paragraph. Can't let reality spoil a good techno-bashing, can we? Anti-piracy group the Business Software Alliance has launched a mascot to promote its cause - an evil software pirate who chooses to do good and makes money by licensing her software. Meg A Byte is a hard-working graphic designer by day, but at night becomes a notorious software pirate working in a run-down tenement. Her life is one happy (but impoverished) cycle of design by day, pirate by night until one dark night she accidentally downloads an evil software virus that steals her portfolio. Shock! Horror! Suddenly Meg is sucked into her computer and forced to battle the evil virus. With the US$500 she collects along the way, she is able to license her software and vanquish the virus. Freed from the clutches of her computer, Meg suddenly finds her bookshelves stacked with all the applications a graphic designer could dream of; from Apple, Macromedia, Adobe, Microsoft, Autodesk and a whole bunch of other BSA members. ( www.bsa.org/usa/ megabyte). For US$500 . . . gosh, how honesty pays. While many companies go to any length to publicise non-existent products long before they reach production, Handspring and Palm enlisted the help of United States authorities to put the mufflers on some neat products last week. According to CBS, after applying for federal approval for unannounced wireless PDAs, both companies forgot to tick a box that would have embargoed the information until next month. The information has now been withheld, but not before details reached some PDA Web sites. Palm's new model, codenamed Skywalker, features an SD card slot and the built-in wireless-data access that users have been demanding for years. Although Skywalker apparently lacks voice features, the news came in the same week that Palm appointed former AT&T chief technical officer David Nagel to head its software unit. Meanwhile, the two Handspring devices look even more promising. Both the Treo G180 and K180 offer the usual Visor features, plus a Sim card slot for GSM voice. The K180 also replaces the Graffiti text input screen with a miniature keyboard. The keyboard is almost identical to that of the RIM Blackberry, which was a massive success in North America but never made the technology leap needed to reach overseas markets. Handspring will have to hurry, because RIM is believed to have been working on a GSM voice version of its Blackberry organiser for a year. Hand-held site PDABuzz has pictures of all both Palm and Handspring's new devices. It also has tracked down the most revolting Palm to date. Targeted at pre-teen girls, the bright Pink M10x comes with matching plastic case and handbag, all liberally sprinkled with glitter. A perfect accessory for Comdex, we don't think. One hand-held that would not go down too well in the heat of Hong Kong is the Gearworks Butter Palm. This 22 kilogram slab of grade-A, salted butter was sculpted into the form of a Palm organiser for display at the 2001 Minnesota state fair, where butter sculptures apparently are something of a crowd-puller. It now seems Gearworks, the mobile-applications developer which commissioned the work, has decided that it doesn't need the thing any more. Rather than see the world's first, largest and most beautiful Butter PDA go to waste, it recognises the market demand for such an item and is offering it to the public in a charity auction. The Butter PDA was commissioned to display Gearworks' software log-in screen, but can easily be smoothed and carved to display any message or image. As butter goes, this PDA also is sturdy and could survive transport of several hundred kilometres, given proper refrigeration. Remarkably, the butter PDA has not drawn a massive response. Last time we checked, the bids had reached US$348. To think that some people still have trouble taking Linux seriously. While thousands of the operating system's enthusiasts were in San Francisco celebrating its 10th birthday last week, a group of European users marked the moment by taking the annual Linuxbierwanderung (Linux beer hike) to Belgium. The adventure, backed by Mandrake and SuSe, took the geeks and their assorted penguins around the caves, castles, monasteries and, of course, beer halls of Belgium, and a series of towns with names no true nerd could resist visiting - Borg, Perl and Apach(e). The whole sad exercise was recorded in detail ( www.killefiz.delbwonline ).