Product News

Product News

by / July 31, 1999
Phone of the Future
NetVision Data Phone combines the capabilities of voice, data networks and the Internet. It allows users to make and receive phone calls, enter and submit data, communicate by radio, access server-based applications and even scan a bar code.

It features a 16-line, 12-character LCD, a configurable tool bar layout and buttons, a data rate of 1Mbps and a scan rate of 36 scans per second. It even supports HTML 3.2 and HTTP 1.1.

It weighs 8 ounces and its battery provides 180 minutes of talk time and 15 hours of standby operation.

Additional information is available by contacting Symbol Technologies at 800/722-6234

IT Foam Home
Scientists at the Department of Energy and Sandia National Laboratories have created a foam that neutralizes both chemical and biological agents in minutes. The foam is not harmful to people and could be dispensed on a disaster scene immediately, even before casualties are evacuated.

In laboratory tests at Sandia, the foam destroyed simulants of the most vicious chemical agents and killed a simulant of anthrax -- the toughest biological agent.

The United States has a number of strategies to prevent a chemical or biological attack from occurring in this country, said Greg Thomas, Sandia program manager for chemo-bio nonproliferation. "But if we are attacked, we'll need to have the tools available to respond."

Additional information is available by contacting Sandia National Laboratories or John German at 505/844-5199.

Do They Point Out Virtual Landmarks?
NASA's virtual airport tower provides an accurate approximation of real air-traffic control towers found in America's largest airports such as Chicago's O'Hare, Dallas/Forth Worth and Atlanta's Hartfield.

The tower allows air-traffic controllers to move around as they would in a real tower, adding an even greater feel of realism to the computer-generated images that simulate weather conditions, seasons, time-of-day and the movement of up to 200 aircraft and ground vehicles.

The two-story, 5,130-square-foot facility uses a Silicon Graphics Onyx2 workstation to process 3-D graphics, imaging, and video data in realtime. Using numerous data resources such as high-resolution satellite imagery, digitized photographs and architectural data, the SGI system can portray any airport in the world in a realistic, 360-degree, high-resolution virtual reality through the tower's 12 huge tempered-glass windows.

"By simulating San Francisco's airport, for example, we can determine if changing traffic patterns in arrival and departure corridors under certain weather conditions could increase safety," said Nancy Dorighi, deputy project manager for the virtual airport tower at NASA. "We can also use the simulator's panoramic IMAX-theater-style view of airport terrain to optimize the deployment of emergency vehicles and communications systems."

Additional information is available by contacting SGI.

It's a Bird! It's a Plane! It's a Boat?
Seair is an ultralight craft that flies like a plane, and with the wings removed, it skims across open water with the maneuverability of an airboat.

It is well suited for emergency and law enforcement applications. It has an 11-foot wingspan and weighs 151 pounds.

It costs $25,995.

Additional information is available by contacting The Seair Flying Boat at 888/FLY-SEAIR.

The Magic Shot

FujiFilm has developed a new digital camera that helps clear up blurry images often associated with the digital devices.

The FujiFilm MX-2900 features a 2.3-million pixel resolution and a 3x optical zoom lens. The MX-2900 allows users to adjust the shutter speeds and select the aperture setting, while the camera's manual mode allows for the examination of settings before the shot is recorded. The photographer can specify the settings for the white balance, exposure compensation, manual exposure, flash brightness, light-metering mode and continuous shooting.

The 3x optical zoom lens is equivalent to a 35-105mm lens on a 35mm camera. The camera also features a 2.5x digital telephoto mode, a built-in flash, a 2.3 million-pixel CCD sensor that captures high-resolution 1,800 x 1,200 images. Depending on the image compression selected: fine, normal or basic, the MX-2900 can record 8, 17, or up to 35 JPEG images respectively or a 4.32MB uncompressed TIFF image on the bundled 8MB SmartMedia card.

The MX-2900 features a 2-inch color LCD monitor with 130,000 pixels and an optical viewfinder with a diopter (a great feature for those with corrective eyewear). The camera provides automatic playback and a zoom mode so users can view 9 images at once on the LCD.

Its magnesium-alloy body weighs 12 ounces and measures 5.1 by 2.35 by 2.7 inches. A rechargeable lithium ion battery can take up to 250 shots when the LCD is off, and 100 when is on. It costs about $899.

Additional information is available by contacting Fuji Photo Film USA Inc. at 800/800-Fuji.

Surf the Real Estate
HUD Next Door Kiosks are helping people in 46 cities -- including San Francisco, Seattle, Sacramento and Chicago -- benefit from HUD programs.

The kiosks display information about buying homes with the help of Federal Housing Administration insurance, locating affordable rental housing, getting job training or economic-development assistance from HUD, finding homeless shelters, or learning more about the HUD programs operating in the community.

Kiosks are located in federal buildings, shopping malls, transportation centers, city halls, HUD's new storefront offices, grocery stores and other places accessible to public.

The kiosks have simple instructions and can be used by first-time computer users, and are operated by touch with an on-screen guide to help the user maneuver through the menu. They provide information on HUD programs that can be found on HUD's Web site .

The kiosks also run a continuous "ticker tape" message board at the top that can be used to announce community events.

Additional information is available by contacting HUD at 202/708-0685.


Book Review
By Ciaran Ryan | Government Technology

In The Silicon Boys, David A. Kaplan spins the story of the Silicon Valley phenomenon and the tycoons who shaped it. To understand Silicon Valley, you must travel to Woodside, the nation's most prestigious address and a monument both to Silicon Valley and American excess.

Woodsiders drive pick-up trucks to prove that they're simple, salt-of-the-earth types, but the Lear jet is never more than a helicopter ride away and men are still measured by the size of their yachts. In Woodside, the junior-high curriculum teaches basic skills in "How to Be a Millionaire."

Silicon Valley is the modern-day metaphor for the California gold rush of 150 years ago: most come up empty-handed, some strike it rich. The transistor wasn't invented here, but Silicon Valley knew what to do with it when William Shockley and two Bell Laboratories colleagues, John Bardeen and Walter Brattain, came up with what turned out to be one of the great discoveries of the century. Newspapers didn't see the importance of the development then, and were more concerned about changes in radio programming. But Robert Noyce and Gordon Moore, two of Shockley's first employees at Shockley Semiconductor, knew exactly what the transistor meant for the future of electronics -- miniaturization. Noyce and Moore left Shockley to set up Fairchild Semiconductor and later Intel, creating one of the most enduring brands of the computer age.

Another of the great stories to emerge from Silicon Valley was Apple. Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, epitomized the modern computer geek. Other kids traded baseball caps, Woz traded computer manuals and developed amazing electronic gizmos. Steve Jobs was the marketing whiz behind Apple. The company reached an emotional high point in 1984 with the launch of the Macintosh -- replete with
such familiar offerings as pull-down menus, icons and a hand-held mouse.

IBM was slow in entering the personal computer market, but within two years -- by 1983 -- it was the market leader, largely because it opted for open architecture that anyone could, and did, clone, and a freely available disk operating system, owned by Microsoft. Apple's fortunes had started to wane.

Among the great failures of the computer industry, none can compare with the decision by IBM not to demand an exclusive license from Microsoft -- a mistake reckoned to have cost it a princely $100 billion. Another is the non-arrival of Gary Kildall, who in 1975 developed the first workable disk operating system to control a microprocessor's basic functions. When IBM went to Pacific Grove, Calif., to offer Kildall an exclusive license, he failed to show for the meeting. Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen bought what Kildall later reckoned was a remarkably similar disk operating system from Seattle Computer in 1980 for $75,000 -- surely the bargain of the century -- and touted it to IBM. Kildall made millions from his CP/M disk operating system, but he made nothing like the billions Gates did from Microsoft.

Larry Ellison, co-founder of Oracle, is another of the accidental billionaires of Silicon Valley. Suave, urbane and, until success struck, battling to pay his bills, Ellison made his fortune developing database solutions for customers such as the CIA.

The Silicon Boys describes the rise of Netscape and the Internet, and the role played in Silicon Valley by venture capitalists such as John Doerr and Arthur Rock. The Internet story is now well documented, but Kaplan's storytelling ability makes this a fun read. The book includes discussion of the Microsoft antitrust trial and looks at some of the allegations against Gates -- worth a staggering $100 billion in early 1999 -- and his empire. This is a must-read for anyone with a passing interest in the new digital world taking shape around us.


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