Crank it up!

By: Shane McCormack
Ending a conversation with the words “My battery’s going” is a scenario that’s all too familiar to mobile phone users and to compound matters it also usually happens when you’re miles away from your battery charger.
Now a revolutionary new idea, borrowed from a relatively old idea is going to provide a solution to this problem. In a throwback to the days of the windup gramophone and the hand-cranked telephone, Motorola is introducing a new wind up charger, which will help you get to say that all important “See you later”.
Developed with London-based Freeplay Energy Group, who make windup radios and flashlights, the FreeCharge is designed to keep dying phones going when a power outlet is out of reach. Winding its handle for about 45 seconds provides four to five more minutes of talk time and about 45 minutes of standby time.
Freecharge is available on the U.K. market in June 2002 and is already available in the U.S. at a cost of about $65. Aimed at boaters, campers, fishermen and those who want the device for
emergencies and peace of mind as your average mobile phone user may not fancy lugging this item around in their clothes or briefcase. The device weighs roughly about twice the weight of your average mobile phone today and consists of a small generator unit, which can be connected to a phone.
Motorola product manager Gary Brandt said “demand could be stronger in Europe, where people are more accustomed to carrying wireless devices around and less willing to risk missing calls”. For now, FreeCharge is compatible only with phones made by Motorola, the world’s second-biggest mobile phone manufacturer. But by August it should adapt to phones made by Nokia and Ericsson too. For more information on FreeCharge visit

Linux – A Brave Gnu World (The Alternative Desktop Solution)

By: Jonathan Brazil
Most people using a personal computer use the Windows operating system. Most people don’t even know that there is an alternative. Well there is and it’s completely free, extremely stable, and comes with nearly every application that you will ever want to use at home or in work for absolutely no cost whatsoever. Shocked? Then read on:
The IT sector has been dealing with Unix systems for years. Typically, these systems were large servers; not for home usage. In 1991 a hacker by the name of Linus Torvalds took a section of the Unix operating system and created his own operating system to be named after him, it was called Linux. For years this open source operating system was revered by hardcore techies and was never produced in a friendly enough state for Joe Soap to install and use. Over the last decade though, the open source community has added many new features, smart touches and valuable applications to the Linux platform.
Progress is fast and furious, unlike large corporations with a set number of developers working on a system, Linux had the support of every single person worldwide that wanted to contribute new material and fix existing problems. These days there are several different versions of Linux known as distributions that can be purchased. The price covers packaging, manuals and not much else but you can download the Linux system itself from the web for free, or copy a friends CD’s without worrying about piracy laws because it is completely legal. My personal favourite distribution is SuSE ( which is currently on version 8.
Unlike the old days when installing Linux was a cumbersome task that required a good knowledge of the computer system, this latest distribution from SuSE takes no more setting up than a couple of clicks. The myth of horrifying setup screens has been abolished, don’t let anyone tell you different! The upgrade, or installation from scratch on a new system, is a remarkably quick and easy process; simple enough for a beginner but with enough options and features for advanced users to avail of.
The success rate of installing Linux on a machine without additional setup is increasing by the day. I recently borrowed SuSE 8 CD’s from a friend and installed it on my brand new machine. Within 25 minutes I was copying the SuSE CD’s for myself with the operating system I had just installed. Even though I had seen the ease of Linux configuration evolve over the last few years, I was still shocked by this achievement. I had a minor problem getting my modem to work but searching the web for no more than 15 minutes on another machine yielded all the information and software I needed to get it working and connected to the Internet.
The new graphical environment is as friendly and intuitive as any Windows system I have ever used and the wealth of software that comes with the distribution is unbelievable. SuSE 8 comes with OpenOffice, which is fully compatible with Microsoft Office 2000 and has similar applications for word processing, spreadsheets, etc. While Linux may still not be the choice for everyone, more and more people are turning towards it for the power and flexibility it offers at a cost that cannot be beat. With the price of computer software escalating so much these days it’s nice to see a system that offers you everything you need to work efficiently, on a single DVD. This latest version of SuSE costs roughly EUR100 for the most fully-featured version, a very reasonable price considering what you get for it.
The open source community as I refer to it is everyone in the world who writes software and modifies software for free. They are the true believers in helping to build more stable systems and realise that somebody else might be able to improve on what they have written, so they don’t hide it for the sake of progress. There are literally thousands of open source projects in operation at the moment ( that cover all types of software. Assistance is only an e-mail or newsgroup posting away. The people involved in these projects are very forthcoming with help and always willing to further the success of their projects by any means possible.
There is a drive by many people in this country to get Linux up and running. There is even a version of Linux in Irish (sea, as gaeilge mo chara), although I don’t know how available it is. There have been a number of success stories in business for Linux ( but not many across the big picture. The only thing that will really push Linux forward is when training institutes and schools answer the burning question of what is more important, Microsoft experience or computer experience? In the meantime check out Linux for yourself.

Linux Makes a name for itself in Hollywood

By: James Cloney
Digital Domain is an advanced full-service production studio located in Venice, California providing filmography services for films such as X-Men, Fight Club, Interview with the Vampire, True Lies, Apollo 13, Dante’s Peak, the Fifth Element and Titanic.
Titanic (written and directed by James Cameron) probably the most costly and dramatic of all these films was one of Digital Domain’s most difficult projects.
The film, set on the Titanic during its first and final voyage across the Atlantic recreated on screen the splendor and drama of the ship and its tragic end.
During the work on Titanic the facility used approximately 350 CPUs, 200 DEC Alpha CPUs and 5 terabytes (that’s a thousand billion bytes) of disk space all connected by a 100 Megabits per second network. Just to put this into perspective a current estimate of the size of all the pages on the Web is between 25 -35 terabytes. And the
requirements for the Titanic come in at just about one sixth of this! Just think of the processing power needed to access all the pages on the Web and divide by six.
A huge undertaking like this needs a huge Operating System`. Or maybe not.
Digital Domain chose Linux as the operating system to keep all those CPUs busy and manage the massive 5 terabytes of disk space. A colossal undertaking by any operating system’s standard. And yet it handled all this and more.
So let’s hear it for the underdog of the operating system world. And the next time you visit the cinema, just ask yourself where we would be without the open source software movement that generated Linux.

Shoot em up – With your Mobile?

By: Conor Ryan
New generation networks allow providers to roll out exciting new mobile services. Take, for example, BotFighters, a real-world mock combat game that’s a variant on paintball – but in this case you use your mobile phone to locate and ‘kill’ opponents.
Created by a Stockholm-based gaming company called It’s Alive, BotFighters is offered exclusively to Telia (Swedish Mobile Operator) customers. Over 5,000 customers have signed up since its launch in April 2001. Players join by going to the game’s Web site ( Once there they can enter the robot lab and design their warriors, choosing from a range of armour, weapons, and ammunition.
Once the warrior has been built, the player can then locate or indeed be located by other players. The fun here is in ‘shooting’ a real person who could be standing up to 1,000 feet away. Other BotFighters can then try to retaliate. The goal, naturally, is to ‘kill’ as many people as possible and the game designers provide players with help by inserting imaginary items into the real-world terrain. For example, if a gamer steps onto a certain street corner, they might find that it contains an imaginary first-aid kit. Or an imaginary gun might be stashed at the next bus stop, and so on.
BotFighters has grabbed headlines in Europe for two reasons. First of all it has shown how mobile phones are mutating into location-aware devices. Unfortunately at the same time the game has spawned all sorts of aberrant behaviour:
Reportedly a player went on vacation on the Swedish island of Gotland, located all the BotFighters there, drove around in a sneak attack and actually killed every one of them. In retaliation, five local players formed a team and chased after him, giving him a good beating.
Can you see Ballygunner and Mount Sion battling it out with their mobiles in Walsh Park?
It’s not just a possibility that this kind of activity can filter in to our daily lives – it’s a fact.

3G Adds New Meaning to the Concept of Home Entertainment

By: Conor Ryan
Imagine you’re in Kilmeaden and you decide you’d like to go to the cinema. So you activate your 3G service. A Global Positioning System (GPS) determines your geographical location. The service then accesses the Irish cinema database to generate a list of nearby cinemas such as the Ormonde in Dungarvan or the Cineplex in Waterford, and a user profile database to determine what kind of movies you like best e.g. Sci-Fi, Horror or maybe Thriller. Based on the geographical location information and user-defined preferences, the 3G service offers you a selection of available movies and show times. You then have the option of using your mobile device (laptop, palmtop, phone etc.) to view corresponding movie trailers through a video streaming service. Once you’ve chosen a film you can purchase a ticket through your mobile device and then all you have to do is get yourself along to the film of your choice and enjoy the evening’s viewing. Mobile cinema ticketing is just one example of the kind of things that can be done with a 3G service.
By offering data-transmission rates up to 384 Kbps for wide-area (home) coverage and 2000 Kbps for local-area coverage (office), 3rd Generation (3G) systems will be able to provide high-quality streamed Internet content to the rapidly growing mobile market. In addition to higher data rates, these systems also will offer what the industry now terms “value-added” services supported by an underlying network that combines video streaming services with a range of unique mobile-specific services such as geographical positioning, user profiling, and mobile payment.
These types of service are the promised offerings of 3G and will have a deep impact on our daily lives. A Virtual Home Environment (VHE) service is another exciting 3G proposition. Imagine sitting in your office in Waterford Crystal and connecting to a camera in your kids’ bedroom to watch them playing, on your computer screen or on your mobile device.
Better again, imagine you are driving home and while stopped in traffic on the Dunmore Road (unfortunately 3G services will not make traffic jams disappear but may help to alleviate them!), you can turn on the heating in your home to ensure it will be warm when you get home, you can also turn on the potatoes on the cooker and time the grill to come on fifteen minutes later so your chops will be cooked at the same time as the potatoes, two minutes after you walk in your front door. How do I know when the potatoes are boiling? or what if there is a fire?, you might ask. Don’t worry, you can watch everything from your cookercam and furthermore, if there is a problem your cooker will ring you to tell you that ring four is malfunctioning and that it has shut it off as a precaution.
All of this is now possible and will be available to the general public in the not too distant future when 3G service providers have rolled out the services and supporting infrastructures.
So just imagine your alarm system ringing you to tell you that there is a burglar in your sitting room. You can sit back in the pub, connect to your sitting room camera and watch the burglar panic as you instruct your VHE alarm to lockdown the sitting room (double lock all doors, close electronic window shutters, shut off electricity to the room etc.), after you have contacted the Gardai. When the Gardai arrive at your home you can open your VHE front door and let them in. All this while still sitting in the pub! So instead of sitting at home watching the outside world on television, you can be outside, anywhere you like in fact, and at the same time watching your home.

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