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Better make sure your compact disc collection is kept in a cool dry place

From Diana J. Choyce
July 02 - 08, 2001

Sequoia Hospital in California, has teamed up with namezero.com Inc. to offer "tech-savvy'' parents the option of launching their infants online long before they take their first steps, giving them e-mail and a personalized domain name shortly after they take their first gulps of air. The service will provide "access to free email and URL forwarding, as well as online tips and resources for child care and parenting,'' Namezero said in a statement. "As our society's communications structure becomes increasingly centered around the Internet, the domain name is becoming an important form of identity, much like a social security number,'' Namezero President Bruce Keiser said. "By registering a child's name at birth, parents are ensuring that the child will have it throughout their lifetime.'' Linda Kresge, chief nurse executive at Sequoia, said the service make the Silicon Valley hospital the first in the country to offer free Internet domains and e-mail addresses for babies. ''It's a fun way to welcome new babies to the 21st century,'' Kresge said.

Tired of dragging your laptop around when you really need only a few files? Try out the new DiskonKey keychain from M-Systems. This key chain resides in a small device that's attached to it. It's a USB-based flash memory device called the DiskOnKey, and it's an excellent answer for people who always need to carry certain files with them, but don't want to carry an entire computer. You can also use it to easily move larger files from one machine to another. DiskOnKey, which is available in sizes from 8MB to 32MB (with up to 512MB expected later this year), attaches directly to the computer's USB port, from which it draws a tiny amount of operating current to run its on-board CPU and warm up the memory. The device is about 4 inches long and 3/4 inch across at its widest part, making at a great key fob. The manufacturer, M-Systems, says DiskOnKey has been fully ruggedized. Prices for the current models range from $40 to $90.

Local Singapore taxi company CityCab, Hewlett-Packard and Ericsson Singapore signed a memorandum of understanding to implement Project Escalade, a mobile service that will allow taxi passengers and drivers to wirelessly access the Internet. Because the "personal area network" in the cab is linked to other public networks such as GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) and GPRS (General Packet Radio Service), passengers will be able to access the Internet from their own handheld devices. And taxi drivers will be able to accept e-payment options and process bookings using the mobile service. With a total investment of over $8 million ($15 million Singapore), the first trial of Project Escalade is expected to involve 500 CityCab taxis by year-end. There are hopes for a global launch of the service in a few years' time, the companies said in a statement. Under the memorandum of understanding, HP will supply the voice-activation technology enabling CityCab to process passenger calls and send booking orders to the handheld device in the taxis. Ericsson will develop the mobile services—including booking and settling fares—using technology such as location-based services, Bluetooth, GPRS and third-generation networks. For CityCab, "the open-standard platform will open the door to numerous other e-services and potential (mobile)-commerce opportunities, transforming our company into a service provider role in this Internet age," CityCab CEO Lim Hung Siang said.

Better make sure your compact disc collection is kept in a cool dry place say scientists in Spain. They have identified a new form of fungus that eats compact discs. A geologist at the Museum of Natural History in Madrid discovered the fungus, which belongs to the common Geotrichum family, on CDs brought back from the central American state of Belize. The fungus had attacked the outer edge of the disc, consuming plastic and even aluminium. It rendered the CD unplayable. Experts say it is unusual but not unknown for a fungus to attack manmade substances like plastics. Javier Garcia-Guinea, head of Geology at the museum, said he believed it was the first documented case of a fungus attacking CDs. Marc Valls, a biologist at Spain's National Centre for Biotechnology, warned people not to be alarmed. He said the fungus would only attack CDs under certain conditions. "Even though this fungus is widespread it could only develop on a CD in high humidity and high temperature, which is not the case most of the time," Mr Valls told the BBC. And he said there was a positive side to the story — the ability of micro-organisms to degrade manmade products could help in waste disposal. "Nature is very clever and, for all the materials that we design, sooner or later they will be degraded by some organism."