How much more can you get into a mobile phone? DoCoMo's latest model, the Mova N505i, has the usual stupidly high resolution colour display and fab camera, but that's not all. It also includes a two-speaker surround sound system, presumably so others can appreciate your tasteful selection of ring tones in glorious high fidelity, and an optical scanner in the base. What a good idea. Every day I spot something in the paper or on a poster that I want to look up later on the Web, but every day I've forgotten by the time I get near a browser. And even if I've got a phone that's Web-enabled, typing in URLs or anything of any length is sufficiently clumsy that I never bother. With the scanner, you just swipe the phone across the page; it decodes the characters and stores them away. Can't miss. There'll be a lot of this in the future, as phones become the information hub of our lives. Shortly, they'll sprout not just radios and televisions but enough smarts to record stuff on the move for later consumption. Doubtless they'll eventually grow the ability to test the air and check our food for contaminants, size up our dates and give us advice when shopping for clothes. None of this is good enough for my companions in ZDNet UK. I asked around the office. What would you most like to have in a mobile phone? "A hairdryer" said one. "Oh yes. And a travel iron," said another. "Why not a complete home laundry?" said the first. There are times when I'm glad I don't work in the mobile phone industry. Tuesday 1/7/2003
News from NEC: it's launched a water-cooled laptop. Moreover, the technology is applicable to any system, says the company. It's small, thin and just needs five volts to activate the special piezo-electric pump that drives the water around the system. I think they're missing a trick here, especially as chips get faster and use more power. Some of these babies dissipate more than 100 watts at full chat -- and that's a lot of oomph. With case modding becoming more and more popular, and people bolting more and more flashing lightage, extraneous fannage and general look-at-me dooferage into their computers, it can only be a matter of time before all that hot water is tapped off, turned to steam and used to drive a wide variety of Mamod-style reciprocating engines, pistons, and other shiny brass things that move. It has a certain style: the more work your CPU is doing, the faster the gears will whiz, the more steam will escape in an accelerando of chuff-chuff-chuffing and the more impressive the whole device will seem. I can foresee heat generation becoming a bonus, not a problem: expansion cards, hard disks and even external peripherals will come with a common pipe fitting interface to couple them into the system. In fact, the inevitable conclusion is the fitting of some form of powered wheels to the base of the unit and competitive outings to see who can do the Dart Valley run in the fastest time. Wednesday 2/7/2003
File sharing is wrong, right? As the RIAA is fond of telling us, it's not only against the law, it's rampantly immoral. Bread from the mouths of starving artists, and all that. Fair enough. Furthermore, the RIAA says, the decline in record sales is entirely due to this downloading lark. Nothing whatsoever to do with them releasing far fewer recordings and charging more for them, heavens no. It's purely down to these immoral acts of thievery. So how come, as Newsweek reports, the Christian music world is suffering disproportionately from the falloff in music sales? Nobody listens to Christian rock except Christians -- with very few exceptions -- but that must mean that the Christians are even greater immoral pirates than the rest of us. Which, to be fair, hardly seems likely. Most of the God-botherers I know act no more or less morally than anyone else, although they do agonise about it more. The answer? Again according to Newsweek, they say they're "spreading God's word". It does seem as if they're let off the hook -- "It's good people that are doing this," says BMG executive Terry Hemmings, a member of the Gospel Music Association's task force. "We're not going to say, 'You're ungodly and you're going to hell because you're file sharing'." Which is nicer than the RIAA can manage: you wouldn't be surprised if they hooked up with the Taliban as brothers in condemnation of the evil ones. Perhaps the last word should go to the rock bands themselves -- who, predictably, return to the Good Book. "Christian recording artists would prefer to leave the problem in God's hands. Mark Lee of the rock band Third Day says that while downloading may cut into sales -- in the last month, 297,726 people shared Third Day songs -- it may also win fans. "I really don't know what to do," he says. But when fans asked about it during a recent Internet chat, Lee typed four words: "Thou shalt not steal." Thursday 3/7/2003
Microsoft has applied for a patent on automatic translation of IM messages. The patent itself is reliably impenetrable, but it seems on first glance to be a method of taking a line in one language -- "Hello, Jacques, how are you?" and translating it to another: "Bonjour, vous singe de reddition qui mange les fromages." As usual, plenty of prior art springs to mind and as usual, it doesn't matter 'cos it's the chap with the biggest lawyer who wins. It's always struck me that this would be an ideal area for European developers. The single biggest problem in the great European Union experiment is the apparent rule that every country must have a different language. Even that's not good enough for some countries, who insist on two or more: heaven only knows how the Swiss have kept out so long. But it struck me ages ago -- and many others -- that the best way for Europe to work is for people to be able to find out what's going on in their next door countries. Talk to each other. Form alliances across borders that aren't commercial or Community-driven, but just out of common interest. You can't do that if you don't know what the other chap's saying. A project for a European-wide chat and bulletin board system with really strong online translation would fulfil many needs: it would act as the perfect gateway into the European governmental systems, it would let the people of Europe discover each other and our common heritage and goals, and most important of all it should qualify for an absolutely stonking lump of Euro-wonga for the developers But get in quick, before Microsoft snaffles the lot. Friday 4/7/2003
The ZDNet UK office is mad about sport. Man, woman, manager: the lot of 'em. Except me. With the solitary exception of croquet, there's nothing in the bundling of a ball across pitch, field or court that thrills the heart of Goodwins. I do tell everyone that my way is a better way, and that obsession with half-naked people bouncing around on television will only lead to tears, but they never listen. Last night was a case in point. As I trudged out of the building, I had to push through an impromptu cricket session taking place in one of the emptier areas of the office. "Aha! Another fielder!" said Graeme 'Silly Mid Off' Wearden, star reporter and sports nut de tutti nutti. "If you had any sense, you'd come to the pub," I wearily reposted, and was roundly laughed off the pitch. Come Friday and the trudge back in, and it looked as if something nasty had happened in the labs. One of the glass partitions between the labs and the rest of the office had been cracked -- had some experiment gone horribly wrong? No. It turns out Graeme misread a leg cutter and, trying to drive it back over to the bowler's head, hit the pavilion window for six as the bat left his hand and disappeared over square leg. Or so I'm told -- it could be Martian for all I know. Riven by guilt, the aforementioned reporter and would-be Boycott (well, he's from Lancashire. Close enough) actually came in early to tidy his desk and 'fess up, hoping that both actions would forestall managerial revenge. As yet, he appears to have been given not out, but the rest of his sympathetic colleagues have been busy downloading sound effects, songs, pictures and other memorabilia related to his smashing time and surreptitiously installing them on his computer. Proof positive, if proof were needed, that drinking is a far safer occupation than all that blooming sport. (Obscure fact: both Nick Lowe and David Bowie sang songs about breaking glass, but when Bowie released an album called Low, Nick released one called Bowi in answer). Click here to see more of Rupert's diaries.