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Ford truck built for the download ahead

What more could the tough truck-driving man want? How about a mobile office in the cab, complete with a wireless-equipped computer, printer and global-positioning system?
Stargate Mobile will offer a dealer installed PC for Ford F-Series vehicles like the one shown here at the SEMA aftermarket auto show in Las Vegas on Monday, Oct. 31, 2005. The system which can be run with voice commands through the car's stereo can be outfitted with wireless internet, a magnetic credit card reader and printer.Isaac Brekken / AP
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Ford Motor Company likes to build 'em tough. And when it comes to F-series pickup trucks, man, are they tough. Ford's commercials often feature butch guys in big boots powering their 4-wheel-drive machines across rugged ground and construction sites — no real man would be found driving on a nice smooth road when there's a mud-filled, pot-holed strewn beaten path to venture down.

What more could a off-road man want? How about a mobile office in the cab, complete with a wireless-equipped computer, printer and global-positioning system?

Yes, Ford is adding the option of a mobile office to its F-series trucks. All yours for about $3,000 — more if you take the option of a credit-card scanner and digital camera.

Sure, some of those hauling hunks are probably lining up for the chance to load up their F-series trucks with the latest electronic wizardry. Indeed, Ford says 60 percent of F-series buyers use their trucks for business. But isn't the business of a having a big truck to haul big stuff around? No offense guys, but the truck is supposed to be "tough" and macho — you really want all that geek gear in it?

Microsoft worked with Ford to develop the mobile office and Patty Dilger, the director of North American automotive and industrial equipment for Microsoft, says it's "super rugged." Hey Bill Gates: I'll drive off-road, you code shotgun! (MSNBC is a Microsoft-NBC joint venture.)

Ultimately, sales will decide the value of this new option for F-series trucks, but Ford probably has one thing going for it — the global-positioning system should appeal to all those boys in their big truckin' toys who just refuse to stop and ask for directions.

Not-so-bad ideas

  • Back in the '60s, T-shirts got the tie-dye treatment and they were all the rage. Men wore them, women wore them, and there was love and peace. Nowadays, it's a totally different ball game.

Some marketing genius at Abercrombie & Fitch decided that T-shirts designed for woman would really sell if they had slogans emblazoned across the front of them like "Who needs brains when you have these?" and "I had a nightmare I was a brunette." According to Abercrombie & Fitch, "these particular T-shirts have been very popular among adult women to whom they are marketed." Just who are these "adult women?" Britney Spears? Jessica Simpson?Certainly not some young women in Pennsylvania. A group of them started a protest movement, funded by the Allegheny County Girls as Grantmakers, an organization that supports women's issues. "I don't like them because they're degrading," said Elizabeth Ritter, 20, said of the shirts.You go girls!

  • Sony has introduced a copy-protection program on some its latest music CDs that that automatically installs onto hard drives when the discs are played on Windows-based personal computers. The program, which has been on the market since early this year, controls how many times a CD can be copied, and was included on about 20 titles, including those from The Bad Plus, Van Zant and Vivian Green, among others.

Now we're not against music companies using technology to prevent thievery, but according to Windows expert Mark Russinovich, Sony didn't bother to tell users that the program would be completely hidden from view, and if virus-protection software does happen to uncover it and the PC user deletes it, your CD drive stops working! (Now that's great way to boost CD sales.) Other PC experts claimed the sneaky software could be used to introduce real viruses and spyware without the user's knowledge.Sony, caught with its anti-piracy pants down, quickly issued a patch to make the files visible and also said they would offer a program to uninstall the surreptitious system. It's not clear if the code also removes virtual egg from your face.