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Mary's Gadgets and Tech News' Journal
20 most recent entries

Date:2005-10-02 01:29
Subject:Claiming this journal for Technorati
Security:Public

Because tagging is good

My Technorati Profile

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Date:2005-05-27 14:13
Subject:Net of the living dead
Security:Public

CipherTrust is tracking the number of zombies (infected PCs used to send spam and fishing mails). In May that added up to 172,009 new zombies a day: 20% in the United States, 15% in China (down from 20% of the 157,000 new zombies a day in April), 26% in the EU, 6% in Germany, 5% in France and 3% in the UK. Good to be the last on the list - but not when you think about relative populations (and the 53% PC usage in the UK). If spam is the tragedy of the commons, zombies are undead goats trekking the muddy ruin of the devastated common into your hall...

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Date:2005-05-27 13:00
Subject:Ways of working together
Security:Public

Unless you’re a hermit, you'll need to collaborate with other people to get your job done - but the software you use every day doesn't always help you do that. Software designed to help people work together -- in real time or whenever it’s convenient for different individuals -- offers a mix of services for communicating and sharing information. Here's the Buyer's Guide on collaboration tools I wrote for ZDNet UK recently...

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Date:2005-02-20 15:44
Subject:Instant back and forth
Security:Public

I use Trillian for IM because I need to talk to people on AIM, Yahoo, MSN, ICQ and IRC (and I don't want five clients running when I can have one that brings everyone together). What I'd like next is for Trillian to cover Skype IM - let me do the text chat conversations just like all my other text chat conversations and if I want to move to talking out loud, have it launch Skype ready to dial them (and maybe copy across the last few lines of the conversation as it's in the log file). There's a Skype API and a Trillian API: surely they can dance together?

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Date:2005-02-19 22:20
Subject:Farms, oil wells, mobile phones...
Security:Public

In 2003 the mobile phone industry made as much money as oil and gas or food manufacturing in the UK; in 2004 it was almost as large as the entire fishing, farming and forestry industry across the EU. That's €105.6 billion and 2.8 million jobs. Those workers generate 2.5 more GDP than the rest of us. Keep talking!

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Date:2004-06-21 16:03
Subject:bigger smaller disks
Security:Public

Seagate has a 4Gb drive to challenge the USB mini-drives that have been proliferating lately; it's rather bigger because even a 1" hard drive is going to be bigger than a memory card, but they've done it quite neatly with a circular body and a rotating cover that keeps the USB cable neat and tidy - turn it to release the plug, turn it again to tuck it away - and the ubiquitous blue LED in the centre. Sony's promising a 2Gb version with the USB sticking out the top like an aerial and an AutoSync button for backing up a specific directory. I think I’d still rather have 40Gb in my bag with a Bluetooth connection though...

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Date:2004-05-11 18:33
Subject:Loose lips beat ships
Security:Public

Keep making the phone calls - it's good for the economy. The mobile phone sector now contributes as much to GDP as the total oil and gas extraction industry; in 2003 that was a chatty £22.9bn which is 2.3% of the total UK GDP. Construction tops the list of contributing industries at just under 6%; hotels and restaurants are the next, at 3.4% and then oil and gas, mobiles and food manufacturing are neck and neck - and just a little ahead of dead tree dinosaurs (paper, print and publishing at 2.2%).

The mobile sector employs nearly 200,000 people and the average employee is probably feeling underpaid now they know they generated £120,000 in revenue in 2003. Next time a local council is considering an application for a new mobile mast or the government is hoping to raise money by auctioning off frequencies or planning new regulations mobile phone networks, the mobile industry would like them to remember that it contributes £15 billion a year to government finances. Without that we might need an extra 3p on the cost of income tax - although without your mobile phone bill you might have more money to pay it, of course.

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Date:2004-04-27 18:45
Subject:Sounds like a good idea on paper
Security:Public

Walking down Jermyn Street I spotted this rather sleek 'virtual reception' but I don’t think the "instructions on screen" are quite what the designer originally plannedCollapse )

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Date:2004-04-20 15:13
Subject:Small and far away
Security:Public

Wireless Access Points don't need to be huge bulky boxes: NetGear has some nice little units that don't make itlook as if you've brought a PABX home from the office. The Asus Pocket Wireless Adapter is a little smaller - about 4" by 2" - and it can also act as a repeater so if your main access point doesn't reach all the way to the garden you could tuck this on a shelf in the kitchen. Oh, and it's only £31.

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Date:2004-04-20 15:02
Subject:Chemistry is hard: new battery technology
Security:Public

Battery power has been lagging behind everything else for quite a while, because chemistry is harder than physics, or writing software. Finding molecules that do what you want consistently takes time. I think the exciting thing about NEC's organic radical battery is not just that you can recharge it in about 30 seconds but that it can discharge fast, so it's good for kit that needs a lot of power, like a hybrid car. The 80 hour battery life they talk about is after a 30 second charge (and it's for a MiniDisc player, which doesn't use batteries up that fast anyway); imagine a battery that takes five minutes to charge but drives your iPod for 80 hours, or your PC for ten.

a press release on the first development of organic radical resin batteries
More technical details about the battery
More technical details about the discharge properties

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Date:2004-01-20 19:04
Subject:Doing the numbers
Security:Public

These statistics from a Microsoft strategy presentation made me think about what's experience and what's communication these days. By the time they're 11 kids today will have spent
5,000 hours reading
10,000 hours playing games
10,000 hours using their mobile phone
20,000 hours watching TV
and they'll have sent 200,000 emails

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Date:2003-11-15 15:10
Subject:Internationalize or import?
Security:Public

Why does it seem that all the cool products stay in the US and Japan?

Well, sometimes, because they do. There are many gadgets that never make it into the UK or Europe at all; if they do they are often last year's model, considerably more expensive or not supported by the same range of services that made them so appealing. imode handsets are small, light, colourful and not much use without an imode service to use them with. Apple's iPhoto and Adobe's Album software both have cool ways of using your photos - like linen-bound books that would make a lovely record of a special trip - that you can't order in the UK because there isn't a photo processing house that can make them over here. The Palm VII used CDMA so it never made it to Europe.

The pricing issue can seem downright insulting; the dollar to pound conversion is often tone to one, so instead of a $199 unit costing the £120 it actually ads up to it will be £199. There are costs in selling into a different market. It's not just converting US to UK English in menus and manuals - that's hardly ever done any more - or allowing for international date formats - disappointingly, it's still a hard to find key combination (Ctrl-Shift-Alt-D) to make Adobe Album 2 use the date format your machine is set to rather than the default US date style. Hardware doesn't always need changing - but if it's anything to do with TV you have to cope with different TV standards and massively different systems for the Electronic Programme Guides around the world. that's why it took Microsoft a year to get Windows XP Media Center to the UK and why of the eight TV wireless media adapters available in the US only two have made it to the UK so far. There's also setting up a UK sales operation (or finding a distributor) - and an after-sales support line.

But there's also the fact that there are different markets in different countries, and that it's natural for companies to concentrate on the market at home that they understand. Different divisions, internal politics, shipping costs; they all mean that a company like Yamaha or Pioneer that has an interesting new home media gadget for letting you enjoy MP3s from your PC on your hi-fi might launch in the US, plan for Japan and not even talk about the UK. Plus if the real money in the deal comes from a streaming Internet radio station tie-up that doesn't have a UK operation to put anything in the pot, there's no incentive to bring the gadget to the UK. The more interesting the gadget, the more likely it is that you need a service to make it work rather than just plugging it in and pressing the buttons - and that's where the most ambitious global plans come unstuck.

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Date:2003-02-05 12:29
Subject:Is that a fileserver in your pocket?
Security:Public

Portable 20Gb WiFi file server - now if the modular computing people would hurry up and ship the OQO 4x6" touchscreen PC, taking computing resources with you would get a lot simpler at both ends of the network. Of course there are security issues (it's small and light and portable (390g, 83x155x31mm): suits a thief as much as it suits me). I doubt if it's expandable or upgradeable. It's only a quarter of the storage on my Linksys NAS box and I'm sure it will be more than a quarter of the price. But none of that really matters when you want to drop a file server in for an hour to collaborate with people (or keep your drive in your bag and work with the files on your portable or PDA). Next stop, building the disk into the wireless access point?

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Date:2002-10-11 13:29
Subject:Finally, real Bluetooth peripherals...
Security:Public

...as in a peripheral that uses Bluetooth rather than a peripheral that just is Bluetooth. Usual thanks to one-man search engine and news feed codepope for spotting the 5Gb external Bluetooth connected hard drive from Toshiba; Tosh claims the Hopbit will run for 6 hours continual use - but up to 200 hours in the power-saving standby mode and the Yen prices comes out to around £250.

And why would Bluetooth data be handy? It's not just not having to take the drive out of your bag to use it, it's not having to connect up wires which at best is tedious and at worst ties you up in knots. You could easily get files to your PDAs, portable and Tablet PCs (that are hard to upgrade with a new hard drive), your mobile phone, your MP3 player, your TV, your stereo or the video screen on your watch; if you get one of those radio pens that records what you write as a form of 'digital ink' you could skip having a PC on the desk at all!

180 grams, 110x70x22mm isn't big or heavy; I wonder if it's the same disk as in the Toshiba PC card drives, plus electronics. USB 1.1 as a backup connection (and for loading the data on fast at home) is slow; why not USB 2 or FireWire? Still, I think this is an exciting idea and another building block for modular computing. Martini computing is about putting the kit where I want as well as working where I want to.

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Date:2002-10-10 13:01
Subject:Weren't PDAs meant to stop us carrying scraps of paper around?
Security:Public

Brother has come up with a pocket-sized printer to go with your PDA.

Actually, this looks useful because if you want to pass on details from your PDA like an address or your flight times or something you saw on AvantGo and they don't have a PDA for you to beam it to, you're reduced to scribbling on a piece of paper or promising to email it when you get back to your desk. Being able to print it out on the spot could be pretty neat. And you can print straight onto address labels... The paper is only A7 because the printer is about the size of a PDA (9.7cm wide by 15.8cm long by 1.75cm deep) and it weighs 300g. £249 is pricey but it connects by infrared and USB.

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Date:2002-09-11 17:41
Subject:GPS gadgets
Security:Public

I tend to think that a technology is mature when it finds its way into a variety of products, not just the single-use devices designed to use the technology when it first came out. So far GPS add-ons for PDAs have been better versions of dedicated hand-held GPS navigators but not much more. But how about a golfing assistant that knows where you are and so can tell you about the course and the hole - tips on driving, which club to use and where you can get lunch on the course. There are fish finders that can give you directions up river, Garmin walkie-talkies with GPS so you don't need to describe where you are and a $400 dollar Wherify watch that lets you find your child by phoning home when you call them or even click an icon on screen. Without going into the privacy implications of that one, GPS is mutating from an end in itself to a service. With integrated services that are actively helpful a PDA becomes more than a battery-powered notebook; it can be an agent, the pokkecon's from Bruce Sterling's Maneki Neko, a tool that can turn a shopping list into an itinerary. It makes me think I'd better write about my travel assistant while it will still be fiction!

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Date:2002-07-26 00:23
Subject:Always on, always posting?
Security:Public

I like the idea of smartphones though I tend to hate the interfaces; I can barely TXT a SMS fast enough to be worthwhile. But if I get a phone with predictive input or a decent keypad I could certainly see myself using the MobileLJ J2ME client to post on the go...

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Date:2002-07-16 21:36
Subject:Pen computing without the computer
Security:Public

Never mind Tablet PC, how about a Bluetooth pen that writes on normal paper and transmits to a PC. The OTM Vpen is lik the IBM TansNote without the clunky case and it does handwriting recognition too and talks to a mobile phone for SMS as well as a PC; Infosync likes it but CNET has a picture of a really clunky version that doesn''t look much like the press shots or the demo.

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Date:2002-07-16 16:42
Subject:I say designers, you say OEM
Security:Public

For me the saddest thing about the HP/Compaq mergeover is the potential loss of the HP Jornada design team who draw on HP's long history of making neat little devices like the original OmniBook - and they drew on HP's calculator division. First flip-screen PDA? HP OmniGo. Best travelling mouse? HP OmniBook mouse onna stick. Over at Compaq they use a company called HTC who also makes mobile phones; they're not alone - NEC uses Asus, Casio uses Wistron. Sometimes it's just outsourced manufacturing - Compai makes the iBook, Quanta the iMac - but Inventec created the OS for iPod as well as making up the units. Check the list on TaiwanHighTech

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Date:2002-07-16 14:29
Subject:I can see you
Security:Public

The problem with most Webcams is the cable, and the PC it plugs into. Axis Webcams have their own server and connect directly to Ethernet; even better would be the D-LinkAir wireless Webcam. Although something smaller would be nice, so I could see the front door from my desk without a large camera sitting in the hanging basket - and no, I would never consider the X10 because of the advertising! But the big problem with the D-LinkAir is that it doesn't work with NAT, which means it won't work with any grown-up networks at all (well spotted codepope).

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