NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, July 2005
Tech News
by Sue Crane,
Vice President & Editor, Big Bear Computer Club, California


Homegrown Star Wars, with Big Screen Magic
Three years ago, graphic artist Shane Felux came home with a digital camera newly purchased on eBay and gave his wife Dawn a deadline: three months to write a 40-minute Star Wars script. Now, countless volunteer hours and $20,000 later, comes the release of "Star Wars: Revelations," one of the most ambitious amateur films ever made and now the “toast of the Internet.” The new Star Wars film is slated for release May 19. http://www.panicstruckpro.com/revelations/revelations_main.html

Let the games begin
RoboGames, formerly Robolympics games launched at San Francisco University. 650 entrants from 15 countries gathered to show their stuff in several categories from Sumo to Soccer. Ultimately, the goal is to create robots that can do more tasks that normally, only humans can do.

Odd-shaped Robots Do More Than Housework.
Engineers at IRobot certainly see house cleaning as a legitimate use of robots, although the company's popular Roomba Intelligent Floorvac vacuum-cleaning robot is disc shaped, not human shaped. Although the company has collaborated with toy-maker Hasbro on a life-like doll, military robots have long been their focus. Military robots don't have a lot in common with the walking, talking robots of science fiction movies. They're shaped more like mini tanks or golf carts than like humans. PackBots, for instance, have tracked wheels to navigate rough terrain and weigh about 40 pounds.

Get Your LCD Monitor or TV now!
Material makers are limiting production as a reaction to 2004 trends, and this could lead to a shortage later in 2005. Glass substrates used to manufacture large-size thin film transistor LCD panels are likely to be 8 percent to 10 percent short of demand and the shortage of color filters used in fifth- and sixth-generation LCD plants is projected to be between 7 percent to 12 percent toward the end of 2005.

Paralyzed man controls his PC and TV using thought alone
Cybernetics - the fusion of human beings and technology - is helping one paralyzed man control his environment by connecting his brain to his PC. Quadriplegic ex-American football player Matthew Nagle is using a system that converts his thoughts into actions on a computer. Nagle's brain is connected to his computer by the BrainGate system, which thought impulses using a sensor implanted in the motor cortex of his brain. Now, neuroscientists monitoring his progress hope he will soon be able to use the system to control other devices including electric wheelchairs.

Talk to your TV!
Agile TV aims to 'change the way people watch TV' via the creation of its voice-controlled TV remote. The Promptu remote is designed to replace a conventional remote control and includes a "Talk" button and a built-in microphone, together with an infrared receiver used in conjunction with an existing cable box.

3D without glasses
Toshiba plans to bring color 3D displays to video game arcades late next year -- and there'll be no need to don special goggles. The company will market the wide-angle 3D displays for video arcades in the second half of 2006, and extend the technology to applications including family TVs by 2010

Electronic Pill Boxes
Two health companies have teamed up to distribute an electronic pill box that does much more than help patients organize their medicine. The Med-eMonitor reminds patients when to take medicine and makes patient-specific inquiries about health measures like blood glucose levels, side effects or just general well-being. The device sends this information to a secure Web server, where practitioners monitoring a patient's care can see the information and intervene quickly if the patient stops taking medicine or reports ill-effects. The Web server also updates the device with new alerts, like upcoming doctor visits or changes in dosages.

RealNetworks Launches Napster Challenger
Streaming-media giant RealNetworks has launched an updated version of its Rhapsody subscription music service to challenge competitors such as Apple Computer's iTunes and Napster To Go. The new Rhapsody, which offers subscribers access to more than 1 million songs, will come in three flavors, one of which is free and provides 25 song downloads each month.

Longhorn to Support Handwriting and Touch Screens
Microsoft plans to include touch screen functionality as a feature of the operating system in the next version of Windows, code-named Longhorn, in addition to support for pen-based input that Microsoft currently offers in Windows XP Tablet PC Edition. Longhorn will also include a new document format that rivals Adobe's PostScript and PDF.

VoIPs to get 911 Access
VoIP companies still can't successfully route a 911 call to the right emergency calling center or provide emergency operators with the caller's phone number and location, but Verizon Communications, the largest of the Baby Bells, said it plans to open its 911 emergency calling infrastructure to providers of Net-based phoning and Qwest Communications International struck a deal with Vonage for access to Qwest's 911 infrastructure. The developments are major for all Net-phone operators, including cable operators, AT&T CallVantage and Net2Phone, which are facing mounting pressure to 911 services.

A Word to President Bush
After U.S. students earlier this month made their worst showing in the 29-year history of the ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest, David Patterson, a computer science professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and president of ACM has a suggestion: "(Our presidents) meet the winners of the football championship (Super Bowl), right?" Patterson says. "Gee, wouldn't it be wonderful if the presidents would meet the winners of the programming contest?". The top U.S. school finished in a tie for 17th place, while students from China's Shanghai Jiao Tong University took the top honors.

There is no restriction against any non-profit group using this article as long as it is kept in context with proper credit given the author. The Editorial Committee of the Association of Personal Computer User Groups (APCUG), an international organization of which this group is a member, brings this article to you.

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