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     Volume 4 Issue 52 | July 1, 2005 |

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Gentlemen, Start Your Droids
Famous for its 500-mile motor race, Indianapolis saw a different kind of motorised competition over the weekend -- the Droidyard 500, which pits R2 droid units against one another. Held at the Star Wars Celebration III convention at the Indiana Convention Center, the race was organised by members of the R2-D2 Builders Club. Held on the convention floor, the Droidyard 500 pitted a couple of dozen droids against each other. In the Droidyard 500, engineer Jerry Greene entered his R9-D2, which is an R2-D2 with its blue panels dyed orange. It didn't fare very well in the races. Weighing in at more than 200 pounds, it chugged along compared with speedier models made of resin. The unit, constructed of aluminum, cost Greene about $15,000 to build over three years. "I'm sick," he said. "Some want total on-screen accuracy, but R2-D2 changes how he looked on-screen," said computer scientist Patrick Coajou. "He changed colour, he changed panels, he changed components. You have to decide on your own how he is supposed to look." Through various cost-saving measures, builder Dan Stuettgen kept the cost of his R6-D1 to around $200. "Mine is all Styrofoam and plastic, except for the wheels," he said. "The wheels are only thing that has to be metal, so that's all that is."

The Sky Car
The Moller Skycar sits on display at NextFest 2005 in Chicago. The Skycar, which boasts speeds up to 563 kilometer-per-hour (350 miles-per-hour), is expected to be available to the public by 2009. Nextfest 2005 is a futuristic design expo.

Cell Phones Put to Novel Use
Your eyes probably hurt just thinking about it: Tens of thousands of Japanese cell-phone owners are poring over full-length novels on their tiny screens. In this technology-enamoured nation, the mobile phone has become so widespread as an entertainment and communication device that reading e-mail, news headlines and weather forecasts -- rather advanced mobile features by global standards -- is routine. Now, Japan's cell-phone users are turning pages. Several mobile web sites offer hundreds of novels -- classics, best sellers and some works written especially for the medium. It takes some getting used to. Only a few lines pop up at a time because the phone screen is about half the size of a business card. But improvements in the quality of liquid-crystal displays and features such as automatic page-flipping or scrolling, make the endeavour far more enjoyable than you'd imagine. "You can read whenever you have a spare moment, and you don't even need to use both hands," says Taro Matsumura, a 24-year-old graduate student who sometimes reads essays and serial novels on his phone. Such times could be just around the corner in the United States, where cell phones are become increasingly used for relaying data, including video, digital photos and music. Cell-phone novels remain a niche market compared with ring tones, music downloads and video games, said Yoshiteru Yamaguchi, executive director at Japan's top mobile carrier, NTT DoCoMo. But no longer is reading books on a phone considered unbelievable, he said.

Cool Stuff Made in Taiwan
Twenty years ago, the exhibition hall of the Computex computer trade show overlooked fields of cabbages, onions and yams. Since then, a new crop has sprouted: ultra-modern shopping malls and the world's tallest building. Changes in Computex, which closes today, are mirrored in the country's technology industry at large -- a disorderly gaggle of tens of thousands of tiny, low-cost manufacturers is giving way to a handful of giants that increasingly outsource their manufacturing to mainland China. For years, Asustek was known primarily as a leading supplier of computer motherboards. But signs of its transformation were abundant at this year's Computex show, where Asustek showed off colourful laptops that included non-standard add-ons such as built-in digital cameras and TV tuners. Its stylish new Vento 3600, a high-end game computer, was also on display. Iwill manufactures the most powerful small computer in the world. But power alone isn't enough, said Iwill General Manager Mason Su. The company now dresses its PCs in glossy cases with a shark's fin Wi-Fi antenna and glowering LED indicators. "Taiwan wants to do high-volume mass production," said Su. "Once you want to go to high volume, you have to go China. Once you go China, you have to kill other competitors to become even bigger."

Scra-Scra-Scratching Thin Air
Researchers at Hewlett-Packard are developing a DJ track-mixing and scratching device they believe to be as significant to music as was the first electric guitar. HP's DJammer is a prototype handheld gadget DJs can use to mimic the sound of scratching vinyl simply by moving the device around. So, if the operator makes a scratching motion in the air, arrays of internal motion sensors translate movement into music, and the DJammer "scratches" the music as though the DJ were manipulating a record. Linked to a digital music library, the device can also mix tracks. It finds the entry and end points for tracks, and can cycle through a song collection. And it is wireless, so a DJ can control the music from anywhere in a room. "The DJammer is the next-generation electric guitar," said Mark Smith, an HP researcher who co-invented the device. "It's the sort of thing where people will be able to become very creative." The HP team's focus on simplicity will, they hope, make it an accessible device for many, as the electric guitar has been.

Latest in Antibiotics
German researchers have found an antibiotic kills bacteria that are indispensable to adult wuchereria worms, a parasite also known as threadworms. University of Bonn medical researchers in Tanzania treated 72 male patients for eight weeks with doxycyclin or a placebo. Initially the patients' blood was swarming with micro-filariae of threadworms but eight months later they had almost completely disappeared; only in one patient were sporadic micro-filariae still detected. The importance of these findings for therapy should not be underestimated, said parasitologist Achim Horauf Horauf. The mature worms are after all responsible for such symptoms of the disease as the extreme swelling of the limbs. In the past there was no effective and reliable method of combating them. The antibiotic used, Doxycyclin, has only minor side-effects.

A Virtual Reality Expression
Japan's Ishikawa Optics and Arts President Jun Ishikawa poses by a mannequin with a video image face called "Chatty" capable to display various expressions through DVD images shown on its surface by a built-in special projector, at a virtual reality exhibition in Tokyo.


Source: AFP and Webindia123

Compiled by: Imran H. Khan

Copyright (R) thedailystar.net 2005