Friday, December 29, 2006

Whoosh, There It Is! Philips Rolls Out amBX Fans, Speakers, Lights

Whoosh! What was that? Never mind: It's just your PC blowing in your face. Huh?

Just when you thought game hardware makers were getting close to the ultimate immersive experience with seat shakers and ultra-high-resolution graphics, Royal Philips Electronics adds another element to the sensory overload: Wind.

The new amBX peripherals from Philips includes a wrist rest that rumbles, speakers with lights that change in response to colors on your monitor and a set of small, variable-speed fans (below) that attempt to duplicate the weather conditions in the game you're playing.

The combo, when tested, was surprisingly enjoyable. As my character leaned into a stiff breeze, the fans blew hard in my face, forcing me to squint a little. It certainly made me feel a little more connected to the on-screen action. According to Philips, these amBX peripherals work seamlessly with games which include amBX code. With this code the games can control the speed of the amBX fans as well as the color and intensity of the lights. For example, if a large fire bursts out in your game, the amBX lights might turn bright yellow and start to flicker.

A complete amBX kit includes two satellite lights, two speakers with lights, a subwoofer, two fans, a wrist rumbler and a control unit. The control unit also comes with "wall washer" lights.

The first amBX-enhanced title available is Broken Sword: The Angel of Death from THQ Inc., but more titles will be announced soon, according to Philips.

What's next? Water pistols? Don't laugh. While Philips representatives said that amBX could support unique peripherals like water sprayers and smell generators, no such accessories are currently on the drawing board.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Gerald M. Boyd: Thanks

Gerald M. Boyd (center) with former NYABJ President Errol Cockfield (left) and New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg at the 2002 NYABJ Awards Dinner at Columbia University.

Photo Copyright 2006, Robert S. Anthony, Stadium Circle Features

Thanks Gerald. I think that's the best thing I can say to someone who worked so selflessly to help others. The passing of former New York Times Managing Editor Gerald M. Boyd on Thanksgiving Day leaves a major void in newspaper journalism.
Gerald is on my personal "Never Thought I'd See The Day" list. Just as I never thought I'd see the day when a black person would serve as mayor of New York City, lead a National Football League team to the Super Bowl or serve as a NASA astronaut, I never thought I'd see the day when a black man would help lead one of New York City's major dailies. Thanks for scratching a line off my list Gerald.

I serve as parliamentarian--the keeper of the bylaws--for the New York Association of Black Journalists (NYABJ). One bylaw states that the NYABJ shall "Work to expand opportunities for black journalists in managerial and supervisory positions." Few people worked to this end with more dedication and fervor than Gerald.
Then again, if you needed someone to "hook you up" with a good job at the Times, Gerald was not the person to see. He had no time for those bereft of talent or devoid of dedication. If you came to him with a proven track record and the desire to put in a 110 per cent effort to be accurate and fair with your work, he'd lend an ear and offer some honest advice.
I'll let others who knew him better write the longer accolades. For now, I'll just say thanks. But Gerald, if you find yourself in a position to edit St. Peter's master list...

Friday, October 27, 2006

The Silex S2: The "Perfect" Fingerprint Reader?

Nobody's perfect and nothing works 100 per cent of the time, right? Tell that to Silex Technology America Inc. because the Salt Lake City-based company believes it has a biometric technology that comes pretty darn close.

Walk into a computer store and you'll find add-on fingerprint readers as well as notebook computers and desktop PC keyboards with tiny fingerprint readers built in. Configure the reader to recognize your fingerprint and no one but you will be able to access your sensitive data, right? Unfortunately, the fingerprint reader that works perfectly in the store might not be so cooperative in bad weather, if it gets smudged or if your fingers are wet, dirty or extra dry, said Gary Bradt, vice president of Silex's biometric division. Imagine that: Data kept so securely that not even you can get at your own data.

Enter the Silex S2, a portable USB fingerprint reader which doesn't rely on actual finger contact but uses a proprietary radio frequency technology to read your fingerprint one skin layer deep. Since the sensing electronics don't need to touch your finger, the weather and your digit-cleansing habits won't affect the S2's ability to recognize your fingerprint and unlock your data, said Bradt. The result is near-perfect reading accuracy, he said.

The S2, which comes in a sealed white plastic housing, is slightly smaller but significantly lighter than the current Silex S1, which uses the same RF technology. The S2 is light enough to be worn on a cord around the neck and can be used with a user identity module (UID), a small electronic card similar to the SIM cards used in GSM cell phones to identify user accounts.

The goal, said Bradt is the license the RF fingerprint reading technology to other hardware manufacturers. Will the technology take off? Only time will tell. The S2 will be officially announced Oct. 30.

Photo courtesy of Silex Technology America Inc.
© Copyright 2006 Stadium Circle Features

Monday, October 09, 2006

Messaging Security 2006: Vishing: The Next Big Cyber Headache?

Halloween is almost here, but you may not have to wait until the end of the month to get a good fright from the latest cybersecurity headache: Vishing.

What's that I hear? Your phone's ringing? According to the Caller ID readout it looks like your bank is calling. Better put this blog aside and take the take that call. But don't leave any personal data behind--it could be a case of vishing.

Such was one of the dire warnings from the security experts at last week's Messaging Security 2006 conference at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in Las Vegas.

Like "phishing"--fraudulent e-mail that has the look and feel of legitimate e-mail from banks, etc.--those who practice vishing use broadband phone systems to pry personal information from their victims via fake voice mail, computer-generated phone calls or by other means.

"We're seeing the first examples of it," said Dr. Paul Judge (left), chief technology officer for Secure Computing Corp., sponsor of the conference. " These are the warning shots."

For example, you could get an automated called from your credit card company alerting you that you are over your credit limit. The call might ask you to log in the phone system with your credit card number and the card's expiration date. The Caller ID you see on your phone might be accurate for your bank but the call could actually be coming in from overseas.

The potential problems from vishing include eavesdropping, Caller ID spoofing, unauthorized access to your personal voice mail, intentional overloading of your voice mailbox, the harvesting of phone numbers from your broadband phone provider, access to billing information and other maladies, said Judge.

Broadband phone services like Vonage, SunRocket and Skype send phone calls over the Internet or via private digital networks instead of the traditional phone network. Since they often have to link to old phone networks, the connection points required to properly hand off the calls have opened new doors for hackers, said Judge.

"You're bringing together many systems that didn't talk or didn't like to talk to each other over the years," said Judge during an Oct. 6 presentation.

Broadband phone services allow users to acquire phone numbers with area codes from other cities, thus making it easy for a distant hacker to appear like a local business. Many broadband phone services offer members sophisticated voice mail systems which sound very professional. Judge told the audience of network security experts that while they might be wise to many vishing techniques, today's hackers have become "...very ingenious in finding ways around your network defenses."

Judge said that while separating bad phone calls from the good can be done by tracking the source of vishing calls to the computers that spew them out, this can be a difficult task since so many new vishers crop up daily. He noted that while there are many widely used data standards for broadband telephony, some services, like Skype, use proprietary protocols and are thus harder for network security experts to work with to keep vishing calls out of their offices.

Jay Chaudhry, vice chairman and chief strategy officer for Secure Computing, also noted that Caller ID data can be easily faked but also noted that encryption of broadband phone traffic can be done relatively easily, thus offering a layer of protection from eavesdroppers.

One strategy to fight vishing is to develop "reputations" for the Internet protocol (IP) addresses of the computers on the Internet that handle voice traffic, he said.

"An IP address is like a Social Security number," said Chaudhry, founder of CipherTrust Inc., which merged with Secure Computing this past summer. "IP is a little bit more tricky [to deal with] but it can be done."

By pinpointing the physical locations of known safe and bad broadband phone services, he said security experts can create multi-layered software and hardware defenses against vishing.

"You don't depend on one technique," said Chaudhry.

So the next time you grab that phone, don't be so eager to respond to requests for sensitive information. You could end up swimming with the vishes.

(Full disclosure: Secure Computing, the conference sponsor, covered the travel and lodging expenses for myself and other journalists.)

Photo and text © Copyright 2006 Stadium Circle Features

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Power to the Masses: HP Buys Voodoo

Hewlett-Packard announced Wednesday that it had reached an agreement to purchase Voodoo Computers Ltd., a privately held company which unashamedly promotes itself as the manufacturer of "the fastest desktop on Earth."

Voodoo, which specializes in high-powered PCs for serious gamers, was founded in 1991 by Rahul Sood, who co-owns the company with his brother, Ravi Sood. HP will establish a new gaming division and will name Rahul Sood, president and chief technology officer at Voodoo, as CTO of the new unit while Ravi Sood, Voodoo's CEO, will serve as the unit's director of strategy.

HP's announcement came at the end of a midtown Manhattan press event which showcased HP's s new consumer desktop and portable computing products and well as future concepts, including a flexible computer display that could be rolled up.

"HP understands our brand. They understand our strategy," said Rahul Sood to dozens of reporters, analysts and HP customers. "HP knows that we want to innovate out of the box."

He noted in his company's blog that HP had a $3.5 billion research and development budget and said that HP's labs were generating almost a dozen patents a day. During Wednesday's presentation he noted that he had received a good deal of moral support from Mark Cuban, best known as the mercurial billionaire owner of the National Basketball Association's Dallas Mavericks. When asked, Cuban, who was in attendance, said he wasn't an investor in Voodoo, just a close friend of the owners.

"Our vision has always been to redefine the machine," said Ravi Sood. Voodoo Computers is based Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

Rahul Sood's Weblog

© Copyright 2006 Stadium Circle Features

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Almost Ready or Not: Microsoft Opens Floodgates with Vista, Office, Explorer Betas

If you have a cast-iron stomach and a computer that's even tougher, this indeed is your season. No, no summer or fall, but beta season, courtesy of Microsoft Corp.

If you can't wait to get your hands on the next versions of Microsoft's anchor software products, a trip to Microsoft's Web site may leave you giddy. Right now you can download free or almost-free, almost-finished versions of Windows Vista, the next iteration of Microsoft's Windows operating system software; Internet Explorer, its Web browser and 2007 Microsoft Office, the next generation of its business application suite.

Keep in mind that beta, or so-called "release candidate" software aren't fully baked yet and may still have bugs in them, though hopefully no major ones. Microsoft recommends that you back up all important data and states that beta software is "not appropriate for production use." Microsoft offers no support for beta software.

Nevertheless, if you have the nerves and the stomach, the betas are ready.

Internet Explorer 7

The next version of Internet Explorer will include a number of new features, including tabbed browsing, a feature already familiar to users of other browsers like the Mozilla Foundation's Firefox. The version that's available for download is a "release candidate," which is a half a step beyond a beta version but still not quite done.

The IE7 Release Candidate 1 download is free but will cost you up to 12MB of hard disk space, according to the system requirements posted on the IE7 Web site. Once you install IE7 RC1 you can use an upgrade checklist to make sure the browser works correctly with your favorite Web site.

Windows Vista

Like the real thing, Release Candidate 1 of Windows Vista will demand a lot from your PC, especially from its graphics system. Vista's new Aero interface is only accessible to PCs with enough graphics muscle. Short of that, Vista will run but will dumb itself down to a more Windows XP-type interface. Thus make sure you check out Vista's requirements before you get started.

Before you do anything you can evaluate your PC with the Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor, also available on the Vista Web site. Note that many new PCs with today's Windows XP operating system are being sold as Vista-ready, thus letting you know that the units will be able to handle the upgrade.

Installing a new operating system is serious business. If the installation fails and you don't have backup files or your old operating system installation disks, you could end up in a dark place indeed. You can download the software or order it on a CD and pay shipping charges. The Vista release candidate software will expire on June 1, 2007, at which time you'll need a real version of Vista to keep your PC working.

2007 Microsoft Office

For Beta 2 of 2007 Microsoft Office you have a choice of downloading the beta software or test driving its components online via your Web browser. If you take the test drive, you'll have to have to install the Citrix Browser Plug-in into your browser, but this can be done automatically while you're at the Office test drive Web site. You can try out each of the Office components, including Word 2007 (right) which offers some new blog publishing features.

The beta software download will cost you $1.50 and will be anywhere from 75MB to 1GB in size, depending on your PC's setup. Note that the Beta 2 software will "expire" and shift down to a "limited functionality mode" as of February 1, 2007. At that time many key functions will be disabled. Pricing for 2007 Microsoft Office is posted on Microsoft's Web site.

Zune, Zune, Zune

Not it's not beta software, but also at the almost-ready stage is Zune, Microsoft's challenger to Apple Computer Inc.'s popular iPod digital music player. Microsoft announced on Sept. 14 that the unit, which will come in black, blue and white, will be available by the holiday shopping season.

The Zune, shown at right, will offer 30GB of data storage, which Microsoft says is enough for up to 7,500 songs, 25,000 pictures or up to 100 hours of video. The unit has a three-inch color screen as well as an FM radio tuner. It will offer a wireless feature which will make it possible to share music wirelessly between two Zunes. The recipient of a copy-protected song sent this way will be able to listen to the song up to three times in three days before he has to pay for it in order to keep it. The recipient won't be able to forward a received song, according to Microsoft. The unit will be linked to Microsoft's new Zune Marketplace music service, which will go toe-to-toe with Apple's well-established iTunes Store.

Do you have something to say about Microsoft's many, many betas? Let me know below.

Friday, September 08, 2006

What's New?

Below are links to some of my latest work in print. Enjoy.

Want HDTV?
Now's the time to buy. Here's what you need to know to shop wisely
Time Magazine, Aug. 21, 2006

Easy Shot
Get over your fears. Anyone can master the new digital cameras
Time Magazine, April 3, 2006

Friday, August 18, 2006

NABJ Indianapolis Warms Up

Things may be quiet on this blog, but they're jumping in Indianapolis this week at the National Association of Black Journalists Convention. I'm working with other professional journalists to help a group of very talented students put out the convention Web site and blog.

At left NABJ Online student reporter Darren Sands interviews Sharpton, who was broadcasting live from the conference.

We've already heard from notables like The Rev. Al Sharpton, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, the world’s first black female president.

The last few weeks have been rife with trade events and announcements, so watch this space for updates soon.

Photo ©2006 Stadium Circle Features

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Thumb Thing Else: The Vonage V-Phone

So you want to check your voice mail but you're seated at a public library computer right between the head librarian and the big "No Cell Phones" sign. What do you do?

Easy. You plug your thumb-size Internet phone into the computer, put on an innocent-looking headset and dial away. That's the concept behind the V-Phone from Vonage, a flash drive enhanced with just enough extra hardware and software to turn it into an Internet phone that works with Vonage's broadband phone plans.

To use the phone, you just plug it into the USB port of a Windows computer with a high-speed Internet connection and plug the included headset with a microphone into a small jack on the unit. Once the software starts up you can make and receive calls, check voice mail, manage your speed-dial list, check Caller ID records and perform other tasks. The V-Phone also serves as a standard flash memory drive and comes with 250 megabytes of available storage. The Vonage software is automatically updated as needed. The phone works fine when your computer is connected to the Internet wirelessly via a Wi-Fi hot spot.

Your telephone number travels with you as you use the V-Phone in different locations. In other words, you'll still have your local area code and number even if you use the V-Phone in a distant city. You can have calls forwarded to another number if they come in when you're not connected. Note that since the unit is meant for mobile use it is not compatible with enhanced 911 emergency services. All 911 calls will go to a Vonage emergency center, which will contact local authorities.
The V-Phone was introduced at a June 28 press event at the observation deck atop the 30 Rockefeller Center building in New York.

The V-Phone will sell for $39.99 plus a $9 activation fee but will often be discounted with rebates, said a Vonage representative. Vonage's domestic plans include the US, Canada and Puerto Rico. The $14.99 residential plan includes 500 monthly minutes, the $24.99 residential plan offers unlimited calling, the $34.99 business plan comes with 1500 minutes and a fax line and the $49.99 business plan offers unlimited calling and a fax line.

So... Would you actually use this thing? Let me know.

Top photo courtesy of Vonage
Bottom photo
© Copyright 2006 Stadium Circle Features

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Tivoli Audio: HD Radio? Now It's "Maybe"

Last year it was almost a firm "no." This year it's a definite "maybe." Will Tivoli Audio, maker of classy-looking, high-tech table and portable radios, support HD Radio technology? Company founder and CEO Tom DeVesto took a wait-and-see attitude June 21 even as he showed off an HD Radio prototype that could be in production by the end of the year.

"I've been maybe more skeptical than most people in the business have been about it," said DeVesto during a press conference at New York's St. Regis Hotel. "The consumer benefits of it are still somewhat questionable."

HD Radio is a digital radio technology which allows existing radio stations to broadcast high-quality digital radio content by using unused portions of their existing bandwidth. According to iBiquity Digital Corp., which developed and licenses HD Radio technology, HD Radio improves AM reception to the quality of today's conventional FM broadcasts while an HD Radio's FM clarity would be at CD quality.

DeVesto said HD Radio technology "had some maturing to do" before he would be sold on it. He said he wanted to see more content, better internal hardware choices and better audio quality. However, her said if all of these pieces were to fall in place, Tivoli Audio had already done its homework and could have an HD Radio-compatible unit ready by the holiday season. A prototype (pictured above) was shown off at the press conference.

During his presentation DeVesto introduced a unit whose whimsical code name ended up being its real name: the Tivoli Audio iYiYi. The $299.99 unit (pictured at right), which comes in black or white, is a docking station for Apple Computer Inc.'s iPod digital music players but also contains an AM/FM radio as well as inputs for other devices such as CD players or game consoles. The iYiYi comes with seven docking adapters, making it compatible with a wide range of iPods, including the full size, video-capable iPod and the extra-slim iPod nano.

"I hope the public doesn't think that having fun while we do what we do is a bad thing," said DeVesto, who said the iYiYi would be available this fall.

The $599.99 Tivoli Audio Music System (left), announced in previous years, will finally make it to market this fall, he said. Aside from twin-front mounted 3-inch speakers and a bottom-facing 5-inch subwoofer, the unit has a slot-loading CD player, a digital display which includes an alarm clock function. The 14.125-inch wide and 5.375-inch tall table radio is designed to deliver concert-quality audio, according to Tivoli Audio. The unit is available in three high-gloss color combinations: black/silver, white/silver and dark walnut/beige.

Finally, Tivloli Audio's $159.99 SongBook portable radio will be available in two "fashion colors" this fall. These include light green and pink. The radios include a digital readout with five station preset buttons, an alarm clock function and an input jack for other audio devices. The unit uses six rechargeable AA batteries which can be recharged while they are still inside with the included AC adapter.

Top photo: © Copyright 2006 Stadium Circle Features
Other photos courtesy Tivoli Audio

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Crumpler: Beer for Bags? Grab a (Back)Pack!

If you were walking through New York City's fashionable Meatpacking District and spotted a steady stream of people staggering toward an Eighth Ave. storefront laden with beer, don't worry. You're weren't missing out on a heck of party. At least not yet. You had just witnessed a unique bit of product promotion.

From June 3 to 11, Crumpler, an Australian manufacturer of stylish backpacks, computer and gadget bags and related accessories, is allowing customers to trade booze for bags. The beer-to-bag exchange rate is sorted out with the help of a cardboard wheel.

For example, the Moderate Embarrassment case (yep, that's the name of the model pictured above), which can hold a 12-inch notebook, including Apple Computer Inc.'s 12-inch iBook, sells on the Crumpler Web site for $80. However, during the 2006 Beer for Bags promotion you could walk into one of its two New York stores with a case of Sapporo beer and a bottle of soy sauce and walk out with this bag.

On the lower end of the scale, you could get a Winkler L, a $14 bag sized for one of the larger Apple iPod digital music players, for just four cans of Boddington's beer, which often sells for less than $10. What happens to the beer? It is consumed at special events sponsored by the company. During a June 5 press event at the 49 Eighth Ave. store in Manhattan (see below), some of the brew ended up in the hands of thirsty journalists. The store featured an on-site factory where special orders could be designed on a computer and delivered within days.

The company, founded in 1995 by three bicycle messengers, clearly marches to the beat of a different drummer. Its clever but edgy Web site seems almost drug induced. At the 2006 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas Crumpler showed up with a low-tech but distinctive booth consisting mainly of oil drums and chalkboards.

While the bags are colorful and seem to exude attitude, inside they offer the same type of padding, pockets and pouches one would expect to find in a computer or gadget bag.

So, would you trade in your beer to put a Crump in your style?

Top photo courtesy of Crumpler
Other photos © 2006 Stadium Circle Features

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Accoona Matata: The Quest for Google's Throne

How do you challenge Google's position as king of Web search engines?

You do it with a lot of recognizable faces, which is what Accoona Corp. did at the United Nations in New York on March 8.

Accoona, a new search engine with extra business and news search features, promises a new level of searching intelligence which can uncover more relevant results than other search engines, according to Accoona.

The press conference at the sunny Delegates' Dining Room at the UN featured chess legend Garry Kasparov (above, left) and Accoona Chairman Eckhard Pfeiffer (above, right), who is also a former CEO of Compaq Computer Corp., now a part of Hewlett-Packard. Former President Bill Clinton is also a supporter of the new search engine and has made appearances on its behalf.

Accoona's search engine features technology that recognizes acronyms and abbreviations for what they are. For example, if you enter the search terms "car NY," Accoona will know that a car and an automobile are the same things and that "NY" usually stands for New York. The result is that many of the results won't actually have "car" or "NY" in the text but will be relevant and useful since they contain "New York" or "automobile."

A "Super Target" features lets you narrow down your search by various criteria. For example, if you entered "NCAA Hampton" into Accoona and clicked the News button, it would return a number of news stories on Hampton University's loss to Monmouth University in a game to decide which school would advance to the NCAA Division 1 men's basketball tournament.

The Super Target feature allows you to narrow down the results by the time the story was posted online, by country, state, or the publisher of the news item or by the name of people mentioned in the articles. For example, you could have narrowed the 2,700 search results to the 497 articles which mentioned Chris Kenny, a Monmouth player who hit six three-point baskets in the game, thus setting a record for the tournament's opening round.

For business searches, Accoona offers links to company data from Dun & Bradsteet as well as providing the Super Target feature to help narrow down searches.

Is there room for another search engine? Only time will tell.

And yes, the name "Accoona" is related to the Swahili phrase "Hakuna Matata," which was made famous in the play "Lion King" and loosely translates to "Don't worry, be happy."

Photo © 2006 Stadium Circle Features

Monday, February 13, 2006

Babies at the PC? Toy Fair Gets Giggles

They say it's never too early to start teaching a toddler how to use a computer, but software for babies? Don't laugh, but a giggle may be in order.

Have you ever seen a parent trying to get work done at a PC while a toddler sits in his lap? It doesn't take long for the tot to reach over and test his fingers--and sometimes his palms and knees--on the keyboard, much to the peril of the data in the computer.

Giggles Computer Funtime For Baby from Leveractive LLC of Webster, New York, takes a baby's natural urge to mimic the keyboard-tickling actions of those he sees and channels it into a learning and entertainment experience, according to Tim Leverett, creator of the software and president of the two-year-old company. He said Giggles was the result of two years of research and field testing with toddlers.

Leverett (pictured above) showed off the software, which is aimed at children between six and 24 months old, at the 2006 American International Toy Fair in snow-laden New York.

No, your tot won't have to take a crash course in the alphabet, numbers and function keys in order to use the program. Once the software is started, a touch of any key will trigger activity on the screen from an assortment of colorful cartoon animals or shapes. A keystroke might cause farm animals to jump up from behind bushes or appear in windows or it might cause colorful shapes, like diamonds, squares and circles, to dance around the screen. Constant pressure on a key or group of keys results in multiple actions and sounds. The software can also be set to a non-interactive video mode if the child just wants to watch.

As a toddler randomly whacks at the keyboard, the software captures all of the input. Thus there's no danger that junior will accidentally reboot your computer, access other programs or delete data, said Leverett. He noted that Giggles doesn't require much computer muscle: The Windows version (a Macintosh version is also included) requires only 32 megabytes of RAM, a 500-megahertz Pentium II processor and a 4X CD-ROM. He suggested that some parents might want to install the software on an old, otherwise underpowered computer and keep their main PC to themselves.

"Shapes," the first entry in a series of titles that will include "Funny Faces," "Animal Friends," and others, is available now for $24.95 from the Giggles Web site.

Photo © 2006 Stadium Circle Features

Monday, January 23, 2006

CES: Get Your MoGo Mousing

The ultra-slim MoGo Mouse fits into your notebook's
PC Card slot for storage. Photos © Newton Peripherals

The 2006 International Consumer Electronics Show was full of strange sights and the MoGo Mouse Bluetooth wireless mouse from Newton Peripherals LLC was certainly one of them.
The MoGo resembles a conventional wireless mouse about as much as a globe resembles a fold-out map. Instead of a rounded shape, the $69.95 MoGo is flat and rectangular and is sized so it fits into a notebook computer's PC Card slot--a space often left empty now that many notebooks come with a modem, an Ethernet port and wireless networking already built in. While the mouse is parked in the slot it recharges its battery from the notebook's battery.
To use the MoGo Mouse, you pop it out of the PC Card slot and extend its plastic feet. In practice your fingers end up at the same angle they would be with a conventional mouse.
The appeal of the MoGo is that it relieves your travel bag of the clutter of a mouse on the loose. The caveat is that in order to use the MoGo, your notebook has to support Bluetooth wireless networking. While many new notebooks do, most do not.
Fortunately, adding Bluetooth functionality to a notebook or a PC isn't hard. Devices such as Belkin Corp.'s Bluetooth USB Adapter and Cisco Systems, Inc.'s Linksys Bluetooth USB Adapter USBBT100 plug into any USB port and are easy to configure. The MoGo Mouse will reach stores in the first quarter of 2006, according to Newton Peripherals.
Would you use this thing? Vote now.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

CES: Beep, Beep! I'm Over Here Bonehead!

Now why didn't I think of that? What happens when you forget where you parked your car? Wouldn't it be nice if your car could shout, "Over here you idiot!" or something just as endearing?

On Thursday Jack Conrad of Tabernash, Colorado won the $15,000 top prize in Digital Innovations LLC's first annual DOC Awards for design, originality and creativity. The award was presented at the 2006 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

The competition is for inventors who have not had their ideas mass marketed yet. Conrad's concept consists of a key ring device which activates a "horn tone" receiver in the car which responds with a prerecorded voice or with music or with an audio file created by the user. The concept is similar to that of creating ring tones for cell phones. You could record your own voice onto the receiver unit and have your car greet you as politely--or impolitely--as you would like.

Conrad, pictured at left below as he receives his award from Digital Innovations CEO Rick Mazursky, is now eligible for an exclusive worldwide licensing agreement with Digital Innovations, which makes a wide variety of accessories for consumer electronics and digital media.

Photo © 2006 Stadium Circle Features

CES: Babble: Hi-Tech Cone of Silence

Remember the "Cone of Silence" from the old "Get Smart" TV sitcom? By using a huge clear glass tube which would lower from the ceiling at the right moment, secret agent Maxwell Smart (played by the late Don Adams) could have a private, if kooky-looking, conversation with another agent.

Babble, a 2006 version of the Cone of Silence without the glass tube or secret agents, turned a few heads when it was shown off Wednesday by Sonare Technologies at the 2006 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The system looks like a conventional set of speakers, but offers a technology that can mask a person's voice, thus allowing him to speak on the phone or to someone nearby without the danger of other people overhearing the conversation.

Once you train the system to recognize your voice and the way you speak, Babble generates what sounds like crowd noise, explained Mark Schurman, director of corporate external communications at Herman Miller Inc., the parent company of Sonare. The noise is attuned to your voice and has the effect of masking what you're saying, thus thwarting eavesdroppers and allowing you to have a private discussion in an open area.

Babble won a "Best of Innovations" award at CES and was named a "Cherry Pick" for being one of the "newest and coolest" products at the show, as assessed by Marty Winston Public Relations.

Photo © 2006 Stadium Circle Features