News Briefs Archive 2006



December 2006

Asian Earthquake Hits Web

f you have been having problems accessing web sites in the Far East in the past few days then it is almost certainly due to series of powerful earthquakes close to Taiwan. These have caused chaos to communications in the region, interrupting telephone and Internet traffic across swathes of Asia and Australia. The magnitude 7.1 quakes wrecked six vital submarine cables (see map), which could take up to six weeks to repair.


Mercifully only two people were killed and the emergency services have managed to cope with the relatively minor amount of physical damage. Contingency plans were in place and phone and web traffic has been diverted to satellites and other cable networks but the system is under stress and will remain so for some time. Hong Kong has been particularly badly affected, losing more than two thirds of its phone capacity. As well as the immediate problems for Asian web sites there have been knock-on effect for sites like Ebay, which carries tens of thousands of auctions every day from Far Eastern traders.



Mill Brew and Weather Reports

Think of two technologies that could be usefully combined and I’m guessing that a coffee maker and a gizmo that forecasts the weather will be pretty far down the list. Nevertheless, that is precisely what Microsoft and Melitta have come up with in the Smart Mill & Brew Coffee Maker.


No prizes for figuring out Melitta’s role in this bizarre partnership. Just pour your beans and some water in the top, select your grind preference and a few minutes later freshly brewed coffee trickles out into the glass jug, which stays hot for as long as you want it to.


Microsoft is responsible for the weather display, which is another application for SPOT (Smart Personal Objects Technology). This is basically a way of implanting clever bits of gizmology into everyday gadgets. So far it has been used to display news and financial info on fancy watches, sent from MSN’s network of Direct Data Service FM transmitters.


This time it is being used to send weather info but before you get too excited the coverage is confined to 125 cities in the US and Canada. There’s no immediate prospect of a UK service so you can put your wallet back in your pocket. For the benefit of US readers when the LCD on the side of the coffee maker isn’t telling you about what sort of coffee it is making it shows local weather conditions and other useful data, including time, date, temperature, rain, visibility and the outlook for the next three days. Come on Microsoft, howsabout something really useful, like a vacuum cleaner that shows the Lottery results…



New Look Jeevesless Ask

The search engine has been testing a new interface, called Askx, designed to rival Google in its simplicity and ease of use. Ask has been undergoing a number of changes recently, starting with the culling if the hugely annoying Jeeves character a few months ago. Askx has been optimized to search for images, video and news content and is part of a long term plan for new search technologies. Whilst Ask has never been in the same league as Google -- it currently has a 6% share of the market -- it has a devoted following and plenty of ambition, it seems.



Blazing Desktops from NEC

And not in a good way… The inflammable laptop battery saga has now more or less run its course so not it’s time now to turn our attention to desktop PCs bursting into flames. NEC is at the center of this latest story; so far only two cases have been reported and everyone is keen to stress that no one has been hurt. The models concerned are from the Valuestar range, or which 14,600 were built between November 2003 and June 2004, and the bit that burns is the mains power supply. NEC hasn’t issued a recall but it has said that it will replace suspect PCs free of charge, according to the Reuters report on CNET News.



Another New Flaw In Word Found

Following on from our report last week of a newly discovered vulnerability in most versions of Microsoft Word, here’s another one! The alert comes from security consultants Secunia and it concerns an as yet unspecified error in the way Word handles documents, that can result in memory corruption and a crash. Naturally Secunia and Microsoft don’t want too many details to get out but it looks quite serious and could allow someone to execute code that could compromise the security of a system. According to the report it is already being exploited and the advice to Word users is not to open or save Word documents from untrusted sources.



Logic Bomber Blown Away

Here’s a little something to cheer you up if you are fed up with the mess and misery hackers and scammers are making. The creator of a ‘Logic Bomb’ designed to delete files on PCs had all of his saving wiped out and has been jailed for 97 months for his troubles.


Roger Duronio’s cunning plan was to use the logic bomb to wipe files on his ex-employer’s computer network. Before he set it off he bought option contracts on the company’s stock, betting it would dive in value after the bomb exploded. The 64 year old’s plan backfired horribly, the stock didn’t go down, and not only did he lose his savings, the judge ordered him to pay $3.1 million in restitution.  



Mozart Online Overwhelms Servers

A scholarly website containing all of Mozart’s 600 works, set up as part of the composer’s 250th birthday celebrations has been all but inaccessible since it launched on Tuesday 12th December. The Mozarteum received almost half a million hits in the first twelve hours and the International Mozart Foundation who run the site with funding from the Packard Humanities Institute (no relation) has been trying to increase server capacity.


Hopefully by the time you read this the site will be available again and if you’re a fan it should be well worth the wait because in addition to examining all 125 volumes of the Neue Mozart Ausgabe (New Mozart Edition or NMA) musicologists guide you can read up on 8000 pages of critical reports and study 24,000 pages of musical score



Security Loophole in Word Waiting for Patch

A potentially dangerous vulnerability called ‘Zero Day’ has been identified in Microsoft Office applications that could allow a hacker to infect a Word file and gain control of a PC. The file could be downloaded from a website or sent as an email attachment and it would be activated as soon as the file is opened, according a Microsoft Security Advisory. The flaw affects Word 2000, Word 2002, Word 2003, Microsoft Word Viewer 2003, Word 2004 for Mac and Word 2004 version X for Mac, Works 2004, 2005 and 2006. Until a patch has been developed Microsoft say Word files from unexpected sources or downloaded from the Internet should not be opened.



New Solar Cells Promise more than 40% Efficiency

One fact, often overlooked, in discussions about Photovoltaic (PV) solar panels, which convert sunlight directly into electricity, is that most of them are between 10 and 20 percent efficient. Basically this means that most panels are unlikely to ever recoup the energy used in their manufacture, let alone make any sort of contribution as a zero emission source of energy. 


Now two teams at Boeing Spectrolab and Lawrence Berkley National Laboratories have announced panels with more than 40 percent efficiency, 45 percent in the case of Lawrence Berkley, which has developed a new zinc-manganese-tellurium semiconductor material. This means the cost of solar panels could potentially fall, from the present level of £4 ($8) per watt to less than £1.50 ($3.00) per watt, and tantalisingly close to the 50 pence ($1) per watt target, at which point solar cells become a viable and cost effective energy source. All that remains now is to perfect an economical manufacturing process for the new panels (hopefully before the energy needed to make them runs out) and the planet will be saved…



Worm Infects MySpace Videos

A new worm that adds ‘phishing’ links to user’s pages has been discovered on the hugely popular MySpace website. The worm hides inside QuickTime video files, laced with malicious JavaScript code and it spreads to anyone visiting the page. According to Websense Security Labs, who first raised the alarm, the worm exploits a known vulnerability in the site’s security, called a ‘cross-site scripting flaw’. It uses the HREF track in a QuickTime movie, which normally carries text data and web addresses. Users who find their sites infected need to clear out their profile and check with friends who visit their site to make sure that they haven’t been infected as well.



Wheely Unusual PC

No, R2D2 hasn’t been getting jiggy with a Dyson vacuum cleaner; this is the 914-PC-Bot from White Box Robotics. Basically it’s a PC on wheels, based on standard components. It does all the usual stuff a Windows XP PC will do, but it can also trundle around under its own steam, following preset routes of wander around ‘exploring’ its environment, using its built-in web cam to see, and show you where it is going. There’s plenty of scope for customising and development and potential applications include keeping watch on your home and office and carrying out simple tasks. Start saving, if you want to be the first kid on the block with one of these perambulating PC’s it will set you back a cool $5000



New Windows Genuine Advantage Soon

The controversial Windows Genuine Advantage Notification tool has been the subject of a major overhaul following a lot of criticism in the way that it works. WGA, which is automatically downloaded onto XP computers during updates is supposed to help Microsoft combat piracy but it has rubbed a lot of users up the wrong way and in particular the way it ‘phones home’ every time you boot up your PC. Microsoft has made a number of changes, including making the installation procedure more transparent, better explanations of what it does and why it is doing it, and MS has changed the wording on the display that appears on PCs WGA decides are running pirate copies of Windows, with an offer to help them obtain a legitimate licence.



November 2006


Macs Targeted by Adware

Mac owners can be unbearably smug when it comes to the viruses and malware infections that plague Windows PCs, and with good reason. So far the combination of tough security and low numbers have kept Mac owners relatively safe but now there’s reports of an adware threat for OS X users.


According to F-Secure they’ve seen a sample of an adware program, dubbed ‘iAdware’ that could be silently installed on Macs and potentially do the sort of things to web browsers that Windows users have been suffering from for years. Whether or not this will turn out to be a real threat remains to be seen but it’s a small comfort for PC users to know that no one is perfect…     



CyberShot Cameras, More Woes For Sony

You have to feel sorry for Sony. No sooner has the furore over the exploding laptops batteries started to die down when another problem appears. This time it concerns CyberShot compact digital cameras and CNet News is reporting that they might not work properly in hot and humid areas. There’s no knowing how many are affected but Sony has sold more than a million of them to date and it is possible that upwards of 4000 models might be in need of repair. The fault, which first came to last year appears to be the same thing that affected a number of Sony digital video cameras and it is caused by condensation getting into the CCD imaging chip.



Big Brother is Listening Too…

When I’m not writing about computers and consumer electronics gizmos a fair amount of my time is taken up with testing high-end video security and surveillance products and I could tell you a few stories that would make your eyes water… However, this news snippet caught my eye and it concerns a new use for the microphones fitted to many CCTV cameras, which for the record are rarely used but that’s yet another story.


Anyway, a Dutch company called Sound Intelligence has come up with a system called Siguard that analyses the sounds the cameras pick up using an ‘Aggression Detector’. It listens out for specific tones that the developers have associated with aggressive behaviour and this is used to trigger an alert in the control room. The system is already undergoing trials in Groningen and by all accounts the UK police are taking a very keen interest in it, so next time you’re on a night out, just watch your language…



Charging Without Wires

Rechargeable gadgets and gizmos are great, except that they have to be re-charged, which means connecting them by wire a little box plugged into the mains. Maybe not for much longer. At the recent American Institute of Physics forum in San Francisco a team from MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) proposed a system that uses ‘wireless energy’ to recharge things like laptops and mobile phones, which only have to be within a metre or so of a charging station.


Sending electrical energy through the air is not exactly a new idea and Tesla was working on something similar using transformers and induction coils more than a century ago; more recently there have been attempts to harness microwaves for this sort of application. This new development uses non-radiative electromagnetic fields, unlike other forms of power transmission the energy does not ripple away wastefully and is re-absorbed by the transmitter if the fields are not being picked up and converted into useable electricity.



A Picture is Worth 330 Words

Researchers at Penn State University have come up with a computer program that can analyse, interpret and describe a photograph using a vocabulary of 330 words. The system known as Automatic Linguistic indexing of Pictures in Real-time or ALIPR can quickly annotate or caption online collections of photographs, making them easier to find by search engines. The current system is 98 percent successful in providing at least one accurate description of each photograph, correctly identifying people, animals and objects and describing what they are doing, or their surroundings. You can see it in action and try it for yourself by uploading your own images to the ALIPR website



‘Radioactive’ Baubles Create Christmas Glow, the world’s first nuclear-powered website is gearing up for the yuletide season with a range of exclusive, hand-painted glass Christmas tree baubles decorated with the instantly recognisable radiation warning ‘trefoil’ symbol. The golden orbs, which cost £3.50 (including UK P&P) are ideal for keeping tree-choccy pinchers at bay and although not actually radioactive, they will bathe your tree in a festive golden glow.


In fact Anythingradioactive has all of your Christmas present needs covered, from pocket-sized Geiger counters costing less than £24.00 to glowing ‘Uranium’ glass marbles and Toxic Waste Mugs, Atomic sweets. The site has everything you ever wanted to know about radioactivity, from how to defuse an atom bomb to the Government’s Protect and Survive video



Site For Sore Thumbs

It had to happen and the American Physical Therapy Association has now recognized ‘Blackberry Thumb’ as a bone-fide workplace injury, caused by over-use of PDA sand SmartPhones. What we didn’t see coming was the speed at which the Hyatt Hotel Chain has cashed in on the condition by offering guests suffering from the complaint a special ‘Blackberry Balm’ hand massage at its North American spa locations. The 30-minute session costs $30 and includes heat treatment and the aforementioned balm and concentrates on relieving tension in the variously afflicted thumb, finger, wrist and hand and arm muscles. Ye gods…



Google G-Mail Flagged Up as Virus

Google’s G-Mail email service has been triggering a virus alert on Windows Live OneCare security software, For the last couple of days OneCare opening G-Mail have been warned about in infection called BWGA/BAT. The ‘false positive’ was quickly spotted, however, and a revised anti-virus signature file has now been released to users. The problem arose after Google made changes to the G-Mail website and both companies have pledged to take care not to let it happen again.




The picture says it all really, just flit the top of this AA cell and pop it into your PC or laptop’s USB port and 5 hours later you have a fully recharged pen cell. It’s not just AA’s either USBCells are available in AAA, PP3 and a range of sizes and styles for phones and portable devices, like Blackberrys. The downside? Well, they’re not cheap, a pair of AA’s will set you back the thick end of £13, and they’re only rated at 1300maH, so the capacity is fairly average but if you take into account the fact that the charger is built-in, and the convenience factor then it doesn’t look too bad.



Vista Code Signed Off

It’s been in development for almost five years and after more false starts and projected launch dates than you can shake a stick at Windows Vista is finally ready to go. The final ‘Gold’ RTM (Release To Manufacturing) code has been approved and signed off and will start shipping to selected manufacturers for testing and staff orientation in the next few weeks. The consumer version will go on sale on January 30th 2007, at or around the same time as the first Vista machines will appear in US shops. Europe and the rest of the world should follow soon after, though it transpires that the code for the French, Spanish and Japanese language versions was actually finalized some time before the English version.  The official Microsoft launch to the business community will be on November 30th 



German Wikipedia infected by MSBlast Worm

The German edition of the online encyclopedia website Wikipedia has been got at, according to a report on CNet News. Once the infection, a variant of the MSBlast/Lovesan worm was spotted it was quickly removed, though no one is sure how long it had been there, and the hackers apparently continued to distribute links to archived pages, which still carried the infection. 



LED Lights Next Energy Saver

At the current rate of development Light Emitting Diodes or LEDs could become a viable replacement for conventional light bulbs with a couple of years. According to Professor Steven DenBarrs of the Solid State Lighting Centre at the University of California LEDs bright enough to replace a 60 watt light bulb currently costs more than £30 but prices are reducing by 50 percent a year. Once the initial cost falls to less than £10 the payback time will be a year or less due to energy saving and a life expectancy of around 100,000 hours.



Pirate Websites Double Jeopardy

An investigation, sponsored by Microsoft and carried out by market research company IDC has found that a quarter of the web sites offering counterfeit product keys, key generators and key cracking tools try to infect the visitor’s PC with malware. Over 10 percent of the key generators downloaded form the web and almost 60 percent found on peer- to-peer networks contain malware or other nasties. The malware payloads these files carry -- usually Trojans, Worms and keyloggers are used to harvest data, which may be used in identity theft or fraud.



Watch This Space

No prizes for guessing what’s at the top of my Christmas wish-list. The CDS-AD66 or ‘Watch MP4 Player 2Gb’ to give it is full name has a 1.5-inch 128 x 128 pixel/250k colour OLED screen, it supports MP3, WMA and MP4 (NVX) video formats and JPEG image files, displays time and date when it’s not showing movies, records, has 5 equaliser modes, super bass and 3D sound. It’s new, so new in fact that we’re not aware of any UK distributors but if you’re interested in becoming one you can contact the wholesalers and buy a sample for $101 or a 5-pack for $95.92 each, and if you do let me know, I want one!



Microsoft ‘Giving Away’ Accounting Software

It’s true, apparently, according to MS watcher Dan Richman. Microsoft is planning to give away Office Accounting Express 2007, a bookkeeping program for small businesses and an upgrade of Small Business Accounting 2006. So what’s the catch? Well, it’s an on-line product and you will need to shell out for some of the services, for example payroll services will set you back $169 a year, credit card processing works out at $9.95 a months and you can receive up to 300 credit reports for around $100 per month. The program has all of the usual accounting features, including processing invoices, sales orders, receive payments through credit cards and PayPal, produce reports and so on, and it also has the facility to sell products online through ebay.



October 2006


Happy Birthday XP

Amidst all the excitement and celebrations of the iPods’ fifth birthday we quite forgot to say many happy returns to Windows XP, which has also just reached the ripe old age of five. The operating system was already well behind schedule when it was finally launched on the 26th of October 2001 -- sounds familiar -- and I recall it being a fairly subdued affair coming as it was just a few weeks after the devastation of 9/11.


Five years on and despite its fair share of problems XP has aged quite well and for most users it is a reasonably painless experience, at least compared with earlier versions of Windows, which made moving to the new more stable OS an attractive proposition. It will be interesting to see what sort of impact Windows Vista will be having in 2011…



Windows Defender Goes Live

After what must have been one of the longest Beta trials in history Microsoft Windows Defender has finally been officially released. Defender, which began life five years ago as Giant AntiSpyware is one of the best malware cleaners around; it continues to be free to users of Windows XP and it will be included with Vista. Microsoft bought up Giant Software in December 2004 and rebadged the program as Microsoft AntiSpyware; soon after it released the first beta version for XP users and it was renamed Windows Defender in January 2006 when the Beta 2 version was released. Throughout it has looked and performed like a fully functional program with very few problems reported, and whilst the extended beta test has theoretically allowed Microsoft to iron out the bugs, it also excused them from providing support. Being a free program support is still limited but XP and Server 2003 have now been granted 2 free ‘support incidents’. If you are using the Beta 2 release be aware that it will stop working on December 31st.



IE7 Bug Discovered

Well, it has been out for at least a week… A potential security flaw has been found in newly released Internet Explorer 7, which could allow an attacker to create pop-up ads containing a fake web address, the so-called ‘phishing’ scam that IE7 was supposed to have fixed. The bug was discovered by security analysts Secunia, which has issued an alert. Microsoft has not as yet fixed the security loophole, and it is extremely unlikely that anyone has got around to deploying it yet but IE7 users should be aware that pop-up pages -- a bad thing in any case -- might not be from who they say they are.



Mobile Phones make you Deaf…

Throughout my life I have been warned against many things that will make me go deaf (or blind...) but I seem to have made it through with fairly reasonable sonic acuity. I recall my old mum telling me not to hold my ‘tranny’ next to my ear; the first Sony Walkman back in the early 1980s brought the doomsayers out of the woodwork and more recently Apple have been getting some stick for deafening young persons with the iPod, what goes around comes around, so it was only a matter of time before mobile phones, and more specifically Bluetooth headsets copped for it.


RealTech News reports that Motorola, Plantronics and Jabra have had lawsuits files against them in a Tampa federal court for not warning users that headsets can cause permanent hearing loss. Apparently one Motorola model produced an ear-tingling 106 decibels.  Seems to me with a bit of tweaking an enterprising manufacturers should be able to come up with a dual-mode Bluetooth earpiece and hearing aid…



Laptops Seized and Scrutinised by US Customs

A report in The New York Times warns laptop users that there is a very real possibility that your machine could be seized or its contents scrutinized by US Customs at borders and points of entry into the US, and there’s not a thing you can do about it. Whilst confiscations are still relatively infrequent there have been a number of cases, with some people still waiting more than a year to have their machines returned.


Corporate users are naturally concerned that seized laptops may contain valuable or important files, and with no way of knowing what is happening to the data some businesses are re-evaluating their security policies. There has also been at least one case of a random inspection yielding evidence of possession of child pornography. Some US companies are now advising their employees not to travel in or out of the US with sensitive information on their laptops unless it is securely encrypted, or encrypt and email the files to themselves so they can be picked up at their destination



Belated Happy iPod to You

Whoops, we forgot to wish the Apple iPod happy birthday. Go on, guess how how old it is? It seems like the ubiquitous personal music player has been around forever but it’s actually only 5 years old and Mr Jobs introduced it to the world on October 23rd 2001. &0 million units later and its still going strong, even though it wasn’t the first player on the market, and in spite of ferocious competition in recent years.



No Sympathy from YouTube

If you post copyright material on the video share site YouTube you can expect no help or sympathy from the company, according to a report on CNet News. Information on who posted the clip or move may be handed over to the authorities or legal representative of anyone who’s copyright may have been infringed.


This follows the well-publicised case of Robert Tur, a US journalist whose footage of the 1992 Los Angeles riots ended up on YouTube in July. Tur’s s attorneys were given the name of one of the people who posted the clips and advised to seek redress from them, instead of YouTube. The company’s policy on copyright infringement is spelt out in its user agreement and on a pop-up that appears when clips are uploaded so it should come as no surprise but it looks as though an increasing number of copyright owners could now pursue copyright violations through the courts.



Do You Want Chips with that?

Not sure what to make of this one but a chap (and I’m assuming it’s a he…) called Sc4freak posting on [H]ard|Forum claims to have deep-fried his computer. In fact he was trying out a technique called submersion cooling, where the motherboard is dunked in a non-conductive liquid, in his case cooking oil, and apparently it worked quite well.


However, being of a curious disposition, and feeling a bit peckish, he put the container with the oil and motherboard on the cooker, turned up the heat and fried a few chips. The big surprise was that with the chips sizzling nicely the PC continued to work, though eventually it did crash whilst playing Quake but apparently lived to run another day, as we hope he will, after ingesting who knows chemicals leeched from the hot mobo…



iPods Ship with Windows Virus

Apple have apologised for sending out a small number of iPods with an extra bonus feature, a Windows virus called RavMonE.exe. It was unintentionally installed in Video iPods, Apple claims only 1 percent of those made on or after September 12th are affected and it reckons Windows anti virus software should pick up the infection. On its website, which has instructions for removing the little nasty, Apple can’t help having a dig at Microsoft’s security failings: ‘As you might imagine, we are upset at Windows for not being more hardy against such viruses, and even more upset with ourselves for not catching it’. 



UK’s First Website Dedicated To Day Trips To Europe

Fancy lunch in Venice, a quick trip on the canals and home in time for tea? It’s easily do-able, according the UK’s, and quite possibly the world’s first website devoted to Day trips to Europe.  Many European cities are only an hour or two away by plane, train or even car, and an unforgettable day out is not going to break the bank. The site is crammed full of interactive features to help you plan your trip; click on images and links for panoramic views, aerial photos, weather forecasts, timetables and webcams of the destinations, which currently includes Amsterdam, Bruges, Toulouse and Venice, more are being added all of the time so check it out.



Sony Laptop Battery Recall, Finally…

You may have been wondering, amidst the fuss and furore over the exploding laptop batteries, why Sony, which makes the volatile lithium ion cells, hasn’t instituted its own recall? Well, now it has, several weeks after Dell, Toshiba, Apple and Lenovo announced their recalls, and a couple of days after Sharp announced it starting an inspection of some 28,000 batteries, CNet News reports that Sony is adding its name to the list. For the record the current tally of recalls from Dell, Toshiba, Apple, Sharp, Lenovo, but excluding the as yet unknown number of Sony batteries, comes to a whopping 7.3 million packs. Let’s just hope all that lithium can be safely recycled…  1810


Sneaky Changes in Vista Licence Agreement

There are a few dedicated souls who actually read through the EULAs (End User Licensing Agreement) that pop up when you install a new piece of software but most of us simply click the I Agree button, life’s too short…. The ones that accompany Windows are amongst the longest and unless you have a degree in weasel-speak, they’re almost impenetrable.


However, Ed Bott at ZDNet has been reading through the one that comes with Vista and he has discovered small but subtle changes in the bit that says how and when you can transfer the licence -- i.e. your copy of Windows -- to another machine.


In XP there is no limit, which is good news for serial upgraders and system builders because it means they can transfer their OS’s to other PC as often as they like, provided it’s only on one PC at a time. In Vista the EULA says you are only allowed to make one lifetime transfer, and it looks as though this will be enforced by Windows Product Activation. Of course it could all change when Vista finally hits the shelves in the next few weeks but if it doesn’t this could prove and expensive and very unwelcome burden for a lot of Windows users.



IE7 Is Coming, Ready or Not…

It looks as though Internet Explorer will be coming to a PC near you, whether you want it or not, if your computer is set up for automatic downloads. Several possible dates have been mooted, the 18th is a hot favourite, but in any event it looks like it will be happening very soon.  A blog on the Microsoft Higher Education site appears to confirm the prediction, saying ‘Microsoft recommends that Web sites and applications be reviewed and made ready for the release of Internet Explorer 7 this month’. If you can’t wait don’t forget IE7 is available for download at your convenience from the Internet Explorer 7 home page.



Graphics Power Turns PC into Supercomputer

Here’s something that might be worth keeping an eye on. A US company called Peakstream has come up with a way of harnessing the raw computing power in high-end graphics cards or graphics processor units (GPUs). In theory a fast, well-equipped PC could be transformed into a Supercomputer.


Peakstream have teamed up with ATI to develop Stream Computing technology that will allow ATI graphics cards to work in concert with high-performance CPUs to solve the kind of big problems that require a lot of intense number crunching. In various simulations involving processing risk assessment, seismic model and disease research data speed increases of between 20 and 40 times have been achieved.



Legless Robot has a Ball

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh have come up with a tall skinny robot that gets around on a single large ball. Ballbot, as it has inevitably been called, shown here with its creator, Robotics Research Professor Ralph Hollis, is faster and more manoeuvrable than legged or wheeled robots and work is underway to add a head and arms, to further improve stability. The ball balancing technology, which uses a PC to interpret messages from motion sensors and drive motorised rollers in contact with the ball, has been described as an  ‘inverse ball-mouse drive’ (you’ll get the idea if you remove the ball from an old ball type computer mouse…). When it is not trundling around it rests on three retractable legs. 



Cheap Flying Robots - PC Controlled UAVs

The air could soon be filled with Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) or flying robots. Until recently they’ve mostly been used for aerial surveillance in war zones and trouble spots. Some of the larger ones have been adapted to carry weapon payloads. The spooks and the military are working on ways to make them smaller and more unobtrusive, and they’re following developments at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Graduate researchers have built a fleet of mini UAVs, based on cheap off-the-shelf gadgets, and hooked them up to a PC network, which allows them to fly around autonomously, taking off and landing under computer control. They can even land and automatically recharge their batteries. During a series of test flights the researchers have also managed to get the UAVs to land on a moving vehicle using data from it’s on-board camera. Keep watching the skies; they’re probably watching you



Face Recognition Search Engine Looking for Volunteers

Here’s a chance to get in on the ground floor of what could be an exciting new Internet technology, or it could be a damp squib, either way you’ll be able to say you were there…  It’s called Polar Rose and it is a browser plug-in from a Swedish research group led by Jan Erik Solem at Malmo University. The idea is you will be able to search quickly through images on your PC, and on the web, finding people based on facial characteristics and a 3D model generated from data within a photograph. Could be interesting, the technology is currently in a closed Alpha test but it will be opened up for Beta testing soon and if you want to sign up then pop along to the Polar Rose website



Single Pixel Camera -- Coming Soon?

Researchers at Rice University in Houston Texas have developed a prototype camera that uses a single pixel image sensor. Actually that’s a bit of an over-simplification, and you needn’t worry too much about the technology coming to a digital camera near you anytime soon. The prototype takes up several square feet of a large laboratory workbench and each picture currently takes around 5 minutes to expose…


The process is called Compressive Sensing light and from an image is scattered using a digital micromirror device (DMD) and picked up using a single photodiode sensor. DMDs are used in video projectors, they’re tiny microchips covered in microscopic mirrors that can be tilted back and forth. In the prototype camera the mirrors are randomly oriented and a ‘snapshot’ of the scattered light is picked up by a photodiode. The process is then repeated several thousand times and the data from the photodiode is assembled, using a complex algorithm into an image. In addition to future applications in digital still and video cameras it has enormous potential in scientific imaging. Cameras that are sensitive to a range of wavelengths can be built quickly and more cheaply as they only need a single sensor, rather than a costly and complex specialist multi-megapixel image sensor chip.



Search for Code with Google

Yet another new search facility from the good folk at Google Labs and this time it’s for seeking out program code. Okay, so maybe it’s not much use if you’re into celebrity gossip and footy but if you’re a novice programmer or developer desperately looking for inspiration to solve a coding problem or finish off your latest whiz-bang app then this could be the place to find it. The search engine is geared towards publicly available and Open Source material, so don’t expect it to reveal any Microsoft source code.



New Red Laser High Capacity Multi Layer Disc Format

UK based New Medium Enterprises has announced a new optical disc format, called Versatile MultiLayer Disc (VMD) which can store between 20 and 100Gb of data on up to 10 layers and read using conventional red laser technology. The big breakthrough, however, is the increase in yield, which has always dogged multi-layer disc production, the technology pioneered by New Medium Enterprises could bring the cost of manufacture of these high capacity discs down to within a few cents of conventional single layer DVDs, and significantly cheaper than the warring Blue Ray and HD-DVD systems. The format has been designed to be compatible with all existing high-definition systems, gaming and data storage. Players have already been developed and the first prototype disc production line is expected to be up and running early next year.



Anti Virus Companies Concerns Over Vista

Anti virus companies Symantec and McAfee are expressing concern over delays by Microsoft to hand over Application Programmable Interfaces (API) for the Vista operating system, according to a Reuters report on CNet News. APIs are needed to ensure that their products work with Vista. The timing is crucial and the delays make it difficult for the anti virus companies to ship their products in time for the December launch in the US. This has done nothing to settle concerns that Microsoft has serious ambitions in the security software market. Its current offering, Windows Defender, is basically a spyware cleaner but some see this as the simply the first step on the way towards a full-blown security suite, though it will be interesting to see how MS can sell a product or make money fixing security flaws that are basically of its own making. Meanwhile we are still waiting to hear if the changes European anti trust regulators have asked Microsoft to make to Vista will result in the planned January launch being put back, yet again.



Turbine Chip to Replace Batteries?

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are working on a gas-turbine engine -- about the size of a ten pence piece -- that could fit inside a microchip and potentially produce enough energy to drive a laptop or mobile phone. The turbine is part of a development project called MEMs or Microelectricalmechanical Systems and is built using etched silicon wafers -- using a similar process to that used to manufacture microchips. The engine is made up of a spinning turbine, compressor and combustion chamber housed inside a stack of 6 wafers. In theory the micro generator could produce upwards of 10 watts of power.  So far the MIT team have succeeded in fabricating the individual parts; the trick now is to put them together and see if it works, and presumably work out ways of keeping it cool (the gases it generates are hot enough melt steel), and where to put the fuel tank…



Rare PowerPoint Warning Released by Microsoft

A newly discovered security loophole in PowerPoint has prompted Microsoft to issue an alert, which in itself is not unusual, but the fact that it was sent out on a Wednesday, rather than ‘Patch Tuesday’, suggests that this one is quite serious.


It concerns a so-called ‘Limited Zero Day Attack’ vulnerability, which involves malicious code hidden inside a PowerPoint presentation. When executed it renders the infected computer vulnerable to attack, and it affects PowerPoint in Office 2000, Office XP and Office 2003 for both Windows and Mac OS X. There is no patch for it at the moment and Microsoft are warning PowerPoint users not to open presentation files from untrusted or unknown sources.



September 2006



Windows Vista RC1 Goes Public

If you missed out on the Windows Vista Beta test a few months back, and still want to get your hands on a review copy of the new operating system, then you’ll be pleased to know that Release Candidate 1 (RC1) which was made available to testers in mid September has now gone public and you can download it direct from Microsoft. RC1 is as near as dammit the final finished product, and this is the very latest version (build 5728), which has a number of small tweaks and improvements. The download is in the form of an ISO file, so you will need a DVD burner and a ISO burning program like Roxio Media Creator, Nero Burning or the excellent freeware utility Imgburn. Just remember, you try it at your own risk so don’t use it on your Sunday best PC, and don’t get too attached, it will self destruct (or probably just stop working), probably around June/July time next year, and there may not be a way to upgrade to the commercial release.



Intel Develop 80 Core Prototype

You probably know all about dual core processors, which basically means your computer can do two things at once and not get too hot under the collar. You may even have heard about Intel’s plans to launch a family of superfast 4-core processors in November, but here’s something new to get your head around, an 80 core processor, as reported by CNET News. A prototype wafer was unveiled by Intel CEO Paul Ottellini at the recent Intel Developer’s Conference in San Francisco and it is claimed to be able to process data at the rate of 1 terabyte per second. If everything goes according to plan the chips could be in production within the next five years.



New E-Card Scam Threat

If you get any emails purporting to contain an ‘E-Card’, most probably from an admiring female, think very hard about clicking on it, better still just delete it. Obviously it’s a scam since you’ve never heard of the person sending it, but a lot of people will open the email and click on the link out of curiosity, to have a look at the card. Big mistake! As soon as you do the web site you are connected to will try to install spyware that will seek out credit card and bank details, passwords and private info by logging your keystrokes. It only takes a second or so and you won’t know it has happened, unless you have some really up to date and on the ball malware protection on your PC, you will be infected!



Virgin Atlantic Eases Laptop Restrictions

Good news for Virgin Atlantic passengers. The draconian ban on Apple and Dell laptops  -- fallout from the exploding Dell/Sony battery saga -- has been partially lifted. The latest news from Virgin’s Passenger Information website states that customers who whish to use a Dell or Apple laptop will be allowed to do so once the battery serial number has been checked by a member of the cabin crew. Providing it doesn’t come from the suspect batch it can be used. The restriction on 2 battery packs per passenger remains though, and no mention of any other Sony batteries. Meanwhile some nice pictures of a sorry looking Dell laptop made it onto the web in double quick time when it burst into flames at Yahoo’s Mission College Campus last week, resulting in the building being evacuated for 45 minutes.





All Vista Versions to Ship on Single Disc

A report on CNET News appears to confirm a rumour that has been circulating for a while, namely that Microsoft will be shipping all versions Windows Vista on a single disc. A feature called Windows Anytime Update will let users upgrade from within their current version, so rather than having to buy a new disc you simply pay the upgrade price.  Windows Vista will be available from January in the UK and there will be five different versions: Home Basic, Home Premium, Business, Enterprise and Ultimate. Vista will also be available in 32 and 64-bit versions, though these will still be sold separately



New Amish Laptop Uses BOS Operating System

The Amish community’s well known dislike of technology hasn’t stopped them from developing their own laptop, reports According to the site and the technical FAQ it neatly sidesteps the problem of electricity, batteries and screens by reverting to the power of the abacus. It’s not Windows compatible as it used the open source BOS (Bead Operating System). If the specs are to be believed (and it looks very much like a prototype) it has a resolution of 13 x 6 beads, a 78 RAB (Random Access Bead) memory and chalk and slate based input. Connection to the Internet is via a string and can modem with download speeds claimed to be in the order of 2.4 bps (beads per second).



Thinner and more Powerful Solar Cells Soon?

It’s all down to bonding hydrogen to silicon, a technique being perfected by researchers at Iowa State University’s Applied Science Department. The team, headed by Vikram Dalal in collaboration with solar cell makers PowerFilm are developing thin and flexible cells, which until now have been less efficient than thicker cells but the new technology could improve the performance of the cells by up to 50 percent. The new manufacturing methods also use a lot less crystalline silicon, which is in short supply, due to demand from chip manufacturers.





Toshiba Recall Sony Made Laptop Batteries

It’s Wednesday so it must be Toshiba’s turn to issue a laptop battery recall in the next chapter in the seemingly never-ending dodgy Sony battery saga. The company has announced that it plans to recall some 340,000 batteries, made by Sony, that were fitted to Dynabook and Daynabook Satellite models made between March and May 2006. According to the Reuters report carried by Yahoo News the batteries will not catch fire or explode but are prone to failure, apparently due to ‘problems with storing and transmitting power…’. No word yet on how much it’s going to cost Tosh Corp, or whether the already troubled Sony are going to pick up the tab.



XMax -- The Next Big Thing In Wireless?

If you have some money to invest in a new and potentially groundbreaking wireless technology then Florida-based XG Technology would like to hear from you. XMax is a mobile Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) system that makes it easier for operators to set up mobile phone and data communications systems by using unlicensed sections of the radio spectrum. At the heart of the system is xG Flash Signal, which is a highly efficient transmission system that provides up to three times the coverage, compared with other wireless technologies. City-wide services can be set up for a fraction of the cost of a traditional mobile phone system and if XG has got its sums right, and it manages to get financial backing, subscribers can look forward to cheaper handsets, lower running costs, higher quality and better coverage.



Better Battery from Brown

Researchers at Brown University in Providence Rhode Island have come up with a new battery technology based on plastics, rather than metals. The new battery combines the best qualities of conventional batteries with capacitors in that it can store a lot of energy in a small space, and when required, deliver a big blast of power. The battery is based on a chemical compound called polypyrrole; early prototypes consist of thin strips of plastic, coated in gold. The component’s conductivity is altered when coated with polypyrrole and when another strip, using a different plastic material is sandwiched together with the first one it behaves like a hybrid battery and capacitor, able to store and deliver an electrical charge over a long period of time. The new batteries can be made extremely thin and could be used to form the cases of electronic devices like cellphones and laptops; it might even be possible to turn the composite material into a fabric. It’s some way from being a commercial product and there are still a few problems to be sorted, like a relatively short life, so it looks as though we’ll be stuck with exploding lithium ion packs for a while yet…





Microsoft House Mouse with Built-In Laser

Billed by Microsoft as a revolutionary ‘Industrial design’ for road warriors, the new Wireless Notebook Presenter Mouse 8000 does indeed manage to pack in an inordinate number of flashy features into its sleek comfy-grip body. They include Bluetooth connectivity, flip it over and there are buttons for flipping presentations back, forward, and full screen; there’s a built-in laser pointer and it comes with a multimedia remote control utility, compatible with Windows Media Player, iTunes, Real Player, for controlling play, pause, track change and volume. Best of all it comes with its own custom mouse house, well a carry case, for the mouse and transceiver. It goes on sale in the US next month and is expected to cost under $100 (around £53), and probably a bit less once the on-line sellers get hold of it.





Web Cops Lift Viagra Spammer

It probably won’t make much difference to the flood of spam emails clogging our inboxes with offers to buy the popular purple anti-impotence pill Viagra, but you will be heartened to know that the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has achieved a notable victory by shutting down a spamming operation reported to be responsible for more than 2 billion emails in one recent campaign. The junk mailers fell foul of Australia’s 2003 Spam Act and first time offenders can expect fines of up to £88,000 and if they keep it up there’s a daily fine of up to £440,000



Canon Copiers Possible Fire Hazard

It’s finally happening, technology is fighting back… Following hard on the heels of the exploding Dell laptop battery your faithful old photocopier could be about to get it own back. According to CBC News Canon has plans to inspect almost 1.9 million copiers manufactured between 1987 and 1997. Apparently there’s a problem with the wiring, which could lead to the machines overheating, smoking or even catching fire. So far there have been only three reported incidents but Canon is taking no chances and the 11 models, sold in Japan, North America and Europe will need checking.



Latvian’s Cry Fowl for Vista

At first this sounded like another urban myth but according to the most excellent Ectaco on-line English - Latvian translator the word Vista does indeed mean hen or fowl in Latvian. Worse still, the report on Yahoo News claims it is also slang for a frumpy woman. Microsoft Latvia are apparently unconcerned about this and point to the fact that the name has given Vista the product recognition, without MS having to spend a penny on advertising.





Sweet and Clean Way to Debadge Your Gizmos

According to the highly entertaining how-to-do-stuff blog Instructables the best way to debadge your gizmos, for that clean uncluttered look, is to scrub them off with a sugar cube... That’s right, all you have to do is mask off the holes and parts you don’t want sugar crystals getting into with sticky tape, then use a sugar cube (probably several) to scrub away the labels. Apparently sugar is just abrasive enough to remove logos and printing, but not hard enough to scratch plastic. Sounds a bit iffy to us but if you want to see how it’s done watch this video.



Back To Black with the Dark Room Word Processor

It’s black to basics for Mac users with the Dark Room word processor, discovered by RealTechNews. It’s a distraction free writing environment, which basically means a screen full of green text against a black background, and not much else. It’s just like the olden days, and not a million miles removed from the sort of thing you could do with another Mac WP freebie called WriteRoom. Looks like fun, now how about one for poor deprived PC users, unless someone knows of an old-school freeware word processor that runs on XP, in which case please let us know.



Another Battery Recall, Now It’s Panasonic’s Turn

Reuters is reporting that Matsushita Electric, the parent of Panasonic is recalling 6000 laptop batteries, made in April and May 2005, which could overheat if they are subjected to a strong impact. Panasonic have not identified the maker but they have said it’s not made by them, or Sony. No batteries have caught fire or caused any injuries and the problem can only occur when the notebook or laptop is dropped, when there’s a chance that a metal spring inside the battery pack could fall off and short out contacts, resulting in overheating.



Is Google Listening To You?

Probably not right now but according to a report in The Register the boffins at Google are working on ways to use the microphone attached to your PC to listen in to what you are saying and what’s going on around your computer. What it does with this information is still not clear but it could be used to identify words or sounds to target ads or obtain Search results. Spooky stuff and we can but hope this is just a bit of speculative ‘blue sky’ thinking that won’t be ending up on a PC anywhere near you…





Browsar Security Called into Question

Barely a week has passed since the fanfare of publicity that accompanied the launch of Browzar, which was billed as a ‘safer’ browser for those who want to keep their surfing private. The principle concerns, that it is ‘Fake and Full of Adware,’ are being voiced on numerous websites, whether or not that is true remains to be see but there is no disputing the fact that it is simply a wrapper for Internet Explorer, with all of its inherent security shortcomings. Moreover the URLs of web sites visited are still recorded in the hidden index.dat file, so anyone with a mind to do so can easily find out where you have been on the net. However, the biggest complaint is that homepage is hard-wired and cannot be changed and Searches are routed through a well-known ‘pay-per-click’ search engine called Overture (now owned by Yahoo).



Mobile Phone Signals Monitor Traffic Flow

Depending how you look at it TrafficAid is a useful or a sinister development in road traffic management. Developed by engineers at IntelliOne in Atlanta. TrafficAid monitors traffic flow by picking up and triangulating mobile phone signals. All mobiles, whether they’re being used or not are constantly sending out signals that tells the network where they are and this information can be used to accurately plot the number of vehicles, and how fast they are moving on a stretch of road. Unlike existing systems, which rely on buried sensors, cameras or detectors, TrafficAid requires no additional infrastructure. In case you are concerned about privacy IntelliOne claim that no personally identifiable data is retrieved fro the phones being monitored, though it hardly seems worth worrying about given the number of cameras watching your every move these days.



Ion Pumps for Cooler Chips

Scientists at the University of Washington have succeeded in developing a microscopic cooling device that’s small enough to be built into a chip. It’s called an ion-pump and it uses an electrical charge to create a jet of cooling air that’s directed onto the surface of the chip. The idea isn’t new but this is the first time an ion pump has been made small enough to be used in this kind of application. The pump has only two components, and no moving parts, so there’s nothing to wear out, no noise and very little power consumption. The actual pump measures just a few microns across and in trials the prototypes have been shown to produce a significant cooling effect. Research grants from semiconductor manufacturers have been awarded to the team and work is now underway to refine the technology.




August 2006


Explore Earth and Space with NASA World Wind

Google Earth sets the standard for browser based earth imaging but NASA, with its unrivalled resources has its own earth viewer program called World Wind. It’s an open source project combining satellite imagery from satellites and shuttle missions, combined and rendered in rich 3D or a range of snazzy looking overlays that reveal hidden details, the weather and topographic features. The user interface is not as slick as Google Earth, nor is it as fast and there’s not as much detail but it has a great Mac-inspired Toolbar; it’s great fun to play around with and you can jump straight from the Earth to explore the Moon, Mars, Jupiter or Venus



Toshiba Launch U3 TransMemory USB Drives

You may or may not have heard of U3 but in case you haven’t, it’s a set of standards, now starting to be adopted by USB flash drive manufacturers that turns the ubiquitous pocket-size memory modules from simple storage devices into ‘smart’ drives. The U3 ‘Launchpad’ application fires up as soon as the drive is inserted into a PC’s USB slot and presents the user with a range of options, depending on what is stored on the device. U3 compliant applications can be launched and installed directly from the drives, information can be written to the host PC’s drive and Registry, but the key feature is they will ‘clean up’ after themselves and erase any superfluous data when the drive is ejected.


All this is by way of a preamble to the news that Toshiba has just announced four new U3 compliant USB drives in its TransMemory range. Three drives will be available from November; the fourth is a special edition high capacity model with 16Gb of storage; this will go on sale in December.



Windows Vista Prices ‘Leaked’

The web has been abuzz with an apparent leak of Canadian prices for Windows Vista on a Microsoft website, that has subsequently been withdrawn. However, a price list has been on Amazon’s pre-order pages for at least the past two weeks, with a predicted release date of January 30th. In case you are interested, or want to start saving your pennies the US prices are as follows: Vista Home Basic will be $199 for the full version and $99 for the upgrade (approx £105/52). The Vista Home Premium Full/Upgrade will set you back $239/$159 (£126/£84), Vista Business will be $299/$199 (£158/£105) and Vista Ultimate will be $399/$259 (£210/£136). Don’t forget it’s all speculation and conjecture and these are US prices but so far Microsoft hasn’t denied it and it sounds about right so they’re probably in the ballpark.





Click Qallariy to begin…

Pronounced ‘Kah-lyah-ree’, that might just make sense if you live in Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Northern Chile, Argentina, and Southern Colombia and are one of the estimated 13 million Quechua speakers. In fact it means Start and Microsoft has just launched a new language patch for Windows XP menus and commands. Other useful things to remember include ‘Kipu’ (kee-poo) for File, the Internet is ‘Llika (Lee-ka) -- the Quechua word for spider web -- and My Documents becomes ‘Documentoykuna’.



30Gb Storage Card for 55 pence

Stand by for another new high capacity data storage system. Optware in Japan are planning to launch the credit card-sized Holographic Versatile Card (HVC) system, capable of storing up to 30Gb of data by the end of the year. Cards are expected to cost around 55 pence each, however, don’t expect to be using them on a PC near you anytime soon. An HVC reader will set you back around £900, whilst a read/write device is going to cost the thick-end of £4500 at launch.



New Toshiba SD Cards Boast  Faster Transfer Rates

Two new SD memory cards from Toshiba, due out in October will have data transfer rates of up to 20Mb per second. The new cards conform to the new Class 4  and 6 specifications, announced in May, and will be aimed at digital camera owners. With capacities of 512Mb, 1Gb and 2Gb



Microsoft Flight Simulator X Demo Now Available

The latest episode in the long-running Flight Simulator series is cleared for takeoff in late October but if you just can’t wait for FS 10 download the free trial version.


The Flight Simulator X demo includes 3 different types of aircraft, 2 airports and 3 missions, from St Maaten airport in the Caribbean. In Mission 1, for novices you get to fly a de Havilland Beaver DHC2 float plane. Mission 2 puts you behind the controls of a microlight and the idea is to ‘bomb’ targets with bags of flour and in Mission 3 you have to take off and land a Bombardier CRJ700 at a bust airport, monitor air traffic control and avoid the other planes in your airspace. The download is a hefty 636Mb but it’s well worth the effort to see the stunning detail and scenery, and if you know anything about flying, the realism and skill needed to fly these birds.





New Vista Key, but Where Will it Go?

One of the most eye-catching features in Windows Vista is the 3D Flip task switcher, where you scroll through a stack of open windows using the Winkey + Tab key combo. It surely won’t take long for keyboard manufacturer’s to catch on and we expect there be a rash of new ‘Vista -ready’ keyboards, with 3D Flip keys, coming out of the woodwork in the next few weeks and months. But who will be first, what symbol will they use, and where will the new key go? These are important questions as the first off the starting blocks could set the standard -- we are now officially on tenterhooks...



Top Ten Phishing Lines

You could probably work this one out for yourself but here’s net security firm McAfee’s top ten ‘Phishing’ email Subject lines for 2006, to scam your bank and credit card details, passwords and so on.

1. Message from eBay Member

2. PayPal Notification

3. Restore Your Account Access

4. Chase Online Banking Service

5. eBay Member

6. eBay Item Not Received Dispute Opened for Item

7. Question from eBay member

8. Question from eBay Member

9. Barclays International informs you

10. - Account maintenance - Profile Update



Windows Vista Plans Confirmed

Reports circulating on the web indicate that the launch schedule for Windows Vista is now looking more certain with the first shipments to business users expected in November, and the consumer package should be in the shops by the end of January. Meanwhile the 2-million plus participants of the mammoth Vista Beta 2 Trial programme can look forward to the deployment of Release Candidate 1 (RC1) sometime in the first couple of weeks of September. RC1 is one of the latest builds and should be as close to the final finished product as makes no difference. Several new features are likely to be incorporated in RC1 and these include links to Windows Live Messenger, Windows Live OneCare’ Live Desktop Mail on the Welcome screen. So what is Windows ‘Live’? Well, according to the official guff… ‘Windows Live is a set of a new set of Internet software and services designed to work together seamlessly to put you in control of the information, personal connections, and interests you care about’…  And if that sounds like a long-winded way of saying fancy browser bookmarks you’re not far wrong but you can see what it is all about for yourself at Windows Live Ideas



New Screens Make Better Blues

According to a report in New Scientist researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology have developed a new polymer screen technology that can generate the full spectrum of colours in visible white light. Existing display technologies cannot produce every colour that the human eye can perceive becase they are based on mixing varying intensities of fixed red, green and blue coloured light, and even the best screen have difficulty in reproducing a wide range of blues. The new display technology, still at the prototype stage, uses microscopic ridged pixels, coated in a thin gold film and positioned behind a diffraction grating. When exposed to an electric charge the pixels expand and contract so when a while light source is shone on the pixels the change in size varies the wavelength and hence the colour of the light reflected from its surface.



Free Energy Claim Challenge to Scientists

No doubt it will happen one day but we’ve been down the free energy route several times before, remember cold fusion and electricity generated by nuclear power that would be too cheap to meter? Anyway, this might be the one, Dublin based technology company Steorn claims it has developed a source of free, clean and constant energy, usable for everything from recharging mobile phones and laptops to powering cars.


Steorn is being fairly cagey about how it works -- magnetism seems to play a fairly important role in this physical law violating technology -- but CEO Sean McCarthy, pictured with a test rig, has issued a challenge to scientists to test its revolutionary technology and so far more than 1200 of them have accepted it, and you want to be one of the first to know the outcome sign up to receive the results by email.

Update -- No news yet but the 'free energy' magnetic motor has apparently been around for years and one design -- the Howard Johnson Magnet Motor -- was patented back in the 1980's, though it has to be said, we're still waiting...



Boeing Axes In-Flight Internet

Here’s some more bad news for travellers, Boeing has just announced that it is scrapping its Connexion division, which was behind the plane-maker’s in-flight Internet service. Boeing has spent upwards of $1.5billion over the past six years rolling out the satellite-based system and users were mostly enthusiastic but clearly there weren’t enough of them and according to The Seattle Times Business & Technology report it just didn’t bring in enough revenue to make it viable and it will close down by the end of the year.



Search PCTopTips 



Top Tips

Windows XP

Windows Vista

Internet & Email

Microsoft Word

Folders & Files

Desktop Mouse & Keyboard

Crash Bang Wallop!

Privacy & Security

Imaging, Scanning & Printing

Power, Safety & Comfort

Tools & Utilities

Sound Advice

Display & screen

Fun & Games

Windows 95/98/SE/ME


2006 News Brief Archive










 Copyright 2007 PCTOPTIPS UK.

All information on this web site is provided as-is without warranty of any kind. Neither PCTOPTIPS nor its employees nor contributors are responsible for any loss, injury, or damage, direct or consequential, resulting from your choosing to use any of the information contained herein.