Hoverboards Are Coming Back!

We saw the practical implication of hoverboards in Back to the Future and about decades later, we had been able to get our hands on this latest gadget only for it to be taken off the shelves a few months from the release. US marked hoverboards safe after multiple accident reports due to imbalance and battery bursts were filed. Many people pointed out hoverboard feature fails regarding the safety level of these gadgets that have undoubtedly become the most favorite thing to own by youngsters, not necessarily specific to this category but most popular with them.

Combustible hoverboards were deemed unsafe and thus, taken out of the market even though we still see them on the roads but strictly outside US as Swagway hoverboards cannot be sold or used within US anymore. However this did not stop the company in further developing this device into a better and fully safe version as reports have stated the company is ready to make a comeback with higher safety standards following every rule and regulation set by the US legislation.

The newer version has been trademarked SWAGTRON by the company. This new board is not your average hoverboard but a rolling ‘balance’ board with newer techniques being implemented for safety of hoverboard user. Americans might see this device hitting the market quite soon, as far as the company claims.

hoverboards unsafeDespite company claims, it is not going to be an easy task to get this new version of hoverboards approved by CPSC as they were marked highly unsafe just recently in February which led to every retailer in the US pulling it out of the market. Same cannot be said about those devices that made their way out of US as policy applied only within the state.

According to the CPSC report, the first wave of hoverboards did not meet safety standards thus, they were marked defective which also posed a threat to the user. The report was filed after multiple serious cases of combustion were reported.

The primary issue being that of the batteries installed in the device because they were below the standards set by Underwriter Laboratory. The reports could not claim if any standard was used to analyze the safety of these batteries which later on exploded while in use.

Even though Swagway claimed to have the right standards for their hoveroards, they still had to see the fall of these devices. Their claim was somewhat correct since they had the required UL approval for the chargers used for these devices but what they lacked was this certification for the product itself as per recently imposed regulations.

As per newer reports and Swagway CEO, Swagtron has gained UL 2272 certification for both of its models T1 available at an expected $399 price and T3 for $499. The reports have yet to be verified by UL.

The main features of these new models revolve around higher user safety and balancing techniques. We should expect Swagtron to hit US market soon enough if the certification has already been awarded to both the models. Let’s hope to see them soon again!

Apple to Bring Echo’s Rival in The Market?

When Apple introduced Siri to its users, competitors took it as a challenge to come up with something equally good if not better. We say that challenge being met out by Google’s Amazon Echo that won the uses approval even amidst fears of redundant features and nothing new to offer. The convenience of usage coupled with a sleek and modern device design, Echo made an irreplaceable entry in the market, well, at least for a short while till Apple comes with a response.

That time has comes and Apple has announced upgrades on Siri that would make it highly useful for its users which will be at par with Amazon Echo if not better.

Developers are expected to see additional software features that will be available for them soon to test out. A report mentions these upgrades will involve Siri having access to multiple third-party services. The changes are not restricted to software upgrades as Apple is planning on designing a device that is expected to give a tough time to Amazon Echo in the market as part of smart home development by Apple.

The World Wide Developer Conference next month might witness Siri SDK being introduced to developers as their new software kit for Siri. This would be an addition to the usual developer tools reviews and iOS previews as is the norm at these conferences.

iphone_siri_reutersSiri SDK software is still a work in progress and it is reported to need an input from the developers to enable Siri access other apps. Third party access is not a new feature for Siri as it has already been working with Yelp and Bing but it had limited access after Apple got it in 2010 with limited access to other apps. Before this, the team behind Siri had designed the tech to work with multiple third-party apps.

Apart from software development, Apple is also investing in speaker design that would allow voice recognition to carry out certain commands like playing music. This update is also said to be a major development in Homekit-enabled devices because Apple’s new device will allow you to control these smart devices like lights, thermostats and locks through voice commands. Developers are expecting to see the device at this year’s conference but there has been no update from Apple regarding formally introducing the speaker at this year’s WWDC which is being held this June. Also, Apple is not known to bring out new hardware devices at these conferences.

Apple’s new device seems quite similar to Amazon Echo as far as the reports coming out about the device but according to some sources, the speaker design and features were put on the table quite before both Echo and Google’s assistance came along.

Regarding Siri, Apple claims to have major plans for its development which includes making it available for Mac as well. Since Apple announced this year’s developer conference through Siri we can safely assume that this WWDC will revolve around Siri. We will find out soon.

Career Tip of the Week

Interview Techniques: Sample Question 5

What has been the most difficult situation you’ve had to face? How did you tackle it?

What the interviewer is really saying: ‘I want to know what your definition of difficult is. Do you have a sensible, logical approach to problem solving and can you show some initiative?’

Type of question: Defensive, with a positive opportunity

Your response:As you can see the interviewer is giving you several invitations to dig your own grave so avoid it by selecting a difficult work situation, not caused by you, but which is understandable and quickly explained in several sentences. If it is a situation that can be compared to a situation you could find in the interviewer’s company that is even better. Explain how you defined the problem, what options you had, why you selected the one you did and what the outcome was, making sure you end on a positive note. If there is not suitable work situation, then select an appropriate personal situation.

FieldWorks 5000

The Fieldworks 5000 is a notebook with a difference – not only does it need a rather large carry handle in order to lug it around, but it has also been designed to withstand very rough handling. The machine’s base unit weighs 4.54kg (you can see the need for the handle) and features a 133MHz Pentium CPU, 16MB of RAM, 810MB hard drive and a 10.4in dual-scan LCD screen. Claimed as the industries first “Rugged Field Notebook” (which can be dropped while in use and remain working) this machine was built with mining, military and field work conditions in mind.

Like other notebooks, the FieldWorks 5000 has excellent expansion capacity and can be easily upgraded. Options include a TFT Colour screen, “Technology Module” CPU (allowing an easy upgrade to a 166MHz CPU), sunlight readable monochrome and active matrix displays (for the great outdoors) and a quad speed CD-ROM drive. All this, and the ability to handle 100g impacts, makes the FieldWorks 5000 a notebook that is in its element when outdoors.

Similar to other multimedia notebooks the FieldWorks 5000 has 16-bit sound, stereo speakers, 2 PC Card slots and a nickel metal-hydride battery, which the distributor claims gives 3 hours of operation at full power (it also has an external power-supply for AC operation).

Unlike other notebooks, however, the FieldWorks 5000 has a rigid and lightweight one-piece Magnesium alloy chassis and high-energy-absorbing rubber which is moulded to the magnesium super structure to protect internal sub-systems The machines operating temperatures are stated as -20°C to 50°C. External rubber flaps are used to protect all slots on the notebook. These take some getting used to but once in place would prevent the entry of most dust or water (although not full immersion).

Backing up the CPU is a 256KB pipeline burst cache and 16MB of RAM (expandable to 64MB). The colour display only handles 640 x 480 internally but will support up to 1280 x 1024 at 256 colours on an external monitor. The rugged nature and solid side walls of the notebook have left the keyboard area slightly smaller than usual, however this did not prevent easy typing, especially as the front handle acts as a good palm/wrist rest. The sidewalls cover the entire height and depth of the machine and the screen closes to a snug fit between them. The touch pad on the notebook is large – catering for those on the move – but needs firm pressure to work well and we found it to be a little imprecise. Speaker volume is good, but there is no external volume control. The video display is powered by Cirrus Logic with 1MB of display memory. LEDs at the top of the notebook offer the user a quick guide to hard drive operation, power on and remaining battery life.

The machine we tested was supplied with Windows 95 and at start up we were presented with four options to load certain drivers. Unfortunately all the options meant Windows 95 reported that the C: drive was operating in ‘Compatibility Mode’ thus slowing hard drive access. This was born out in testing with the FieldWorks 5000 scoring 332 in the Business Disk Winmark 97, compared to 550 for a Pentium 166 desktop system. In other performance testing the notebook scored 17.9 in Business Winstone 97 640 x 480 at 16k colour, and 12.1 in 24M colours. WinBench Graphics WinMark 97 revealed a marked difference in performance when changing from 24M to 16k. The results were 7.86 in 24M colours and 23 in 16k colours. Because the FieldWorks 5000 is completely sealed from the environment, heat is dissipated by an external heat sink located at the rear of the notebook. Also on the back of the machine are two com ports, SVGA port, parallel port, PS/2 mouse and keyboard ports, a speaker out, line in and mic in ports.

The FieldWorks 5000 certainly looks as if it would live up to the claims it makes of being “the worlds most rugged PC” however the Test Lab did not drop the notebook or subject it to a Melbourne thunderstorm.

If you need a PC for the outdoors, and have big pockets, give the FieldWorks 5000 and its bigger brother, the 7000, a close look.

Racal Fieldworks 5000 Notebook
PROS: Rugged, tough design; Go anywhere computing.
CONS: Heavier than most notebooks. Pricey, but if your notebook is often dropped or run over then it might be worth the money.
Company: Racal Australia
Address: 3 Powells Road, Brookvale, 2100
Phone: 02 9936 7000
Fax: 02 9936 7036
PRICE: $14,335 as tested (floppy drive – $305, 4x CD-ROM – $1275, extra battery – $650)

Cisco Buys IDSL Technology Maker Telesend

Cisco Systems recently entered the Digital Subscriber Line market, delivering a new frame multiplexer based on technology developed by Telesend, which Cisco said it acquired in a stock swap.

Telesend will be folded into Cisco’s wide area network business unit, including Telesend President and Chief Executive Officer Sayuri Sharper and all employees and management. The companies did not divulge the value of the acquisition.

The new Cisco 90i frame multiplexer is designed to help carriers offload Integrated Services Digital Network, or ISDN, Internet access traffic from their voice networks. Currently in trial with several carriers, with a per-port cost of US$150, the multiplexer will work with Cisco’s AS5200 Universal Access Server, the company said.

On Dec. 9, 1996, Ascend Communications Inc. introduced its own ISDN-DSL, or IDSL, solution as part of its MAX MultiDSL access platform, which also includes multimegabit Symmetric and Asymmetric DSL technologies. Bay Networks is said to be pursuing an acquisition of a Digital Subscriber Line, or xDSL, technology company.

Cisco said its IDSL solution will deliver “the industry’s most cost-effective digital access solution” because the Cisco 90i converts standard telephone company time division multiplexing D4 channel banks into frame multiplexers, “optimizing existing spare capacity and thereby reducing equipment costs.” Cisco said the multiplexer service will be “ideal for small business users, telecommuters and residential Internet access.”

Connecting Theatres of Operations

The drive for efficiency has led Australia’s largest private health care provider to institute sweeping changes across its IT infrastructure. Computer Week’s Anna Raciti spoke to the team instigating the changes.

The mammoth cost of providing health care for the nation has been stretching government and corporate hip-pockets for years.

In the growing private health sector, hospitals compete for space and for business. It is in their interests to implement systems that will manage patient care and hospital administration more efficiently and cost-effectively.

One health care provider that’s focused on making IT serve the health care industry more fully is the Mayne Nickless company Health Care of Australia (HCoA). HCoA is the biggest private health care provider in Australia. Including hospital staff, HCoA employs more than 6000 people.

Although only 11 strong, the IT team is charged with managing the IT needs of 35 private hospitals located around the country and overseas in Jakarta and East Java. The company is currently in the process of putting its patient indexing system on-line, installing e-mail throughout the hospitals, and rebuilding its network architecture to link all sites.

Meeting expectations

According to group MIS manager Gary Moss, hospitals have a duty to manage administration efficiently. They must ensure that operating theatres are scheduled, and that inventory such as pharmaceuticals and prosthetics is monitored.

HCoA has begun implementing a new on-line system that the private hospitals under its care will utilise. The system runs on a Sun Ultra host with 512MB of RAM and 28GB of storage (the company plans to upgrade to a Sun Enterprise 4000 in the future).

The system operates from the company’s office in North Sydney, and relies on software developed by Melbourne company IBA. Called Unicare, the software is divided into different modules, each focused on a separate medical and/or administrative function. These functions include financial control, patient management, inventory control, and performance monitoring. The patient management system looks after the functions of admissions, discharges, transfers and billings. It also runs the patient master index. According to HCoA, the system is patient-centred, aimed at providing the best environment for staff and patients.

One practical application for the package is the scheduling and booking of operating theatres, offering staff on the wards on-line access to theatre lists.

“Things happen that can really upset a hospital’s schedule,” said Moss.

“You might have your theatres fully utilised and something comes up, an emergency like a motor vehicle accident…you need an operating theatre and you need one fast, you can’t afford delays, but then it throws out the rest of the day’s schedule because everything needs to be shuffled back.

“The concept with this software is we can manage the whole process all the way through.”

In the past, he added, “you would find hospitals had a booking clerk with an enormous piece of paper all ruled up. The theatre bookings would be put in there and we’d be scribbling around in pencil.”

Moss said people were sometimes left waiting in a corridor because theatre bookings were out of sync and fully booked.

“That’s not the kind of service we want to provide,” he said.

The hospitals depend heavily on the software package and, so far, Moss said, it has performed well for them. HCoA’s Queensland hospitals are all using the software. In New South Wales, the implementation is almost complete, and the company has started implementing the service in its Victorian hospitals.

According to Moss, health care is increasingly about a multi-disciplined approach. New ways of treating patients mean that networks must be established to link patients and all the services they require, so HCoA has networked its hospitals to the central site for access to financials and patient data.

A networked site also means hospitals can access databases for research purposes. Networked doctors can keep in touch with pathology labs and new research by reading it over the Internet. In the future, Moss also envisages patients being able to book themselves into an operating theatre via the Internet.

“What we’ve done in the past 12 months is totally rebuild our network architecture,” said Moss. “We now have a fully-routed network linking all our facilities through a hub site here [in North Sydney]. We’re using Optus data links for our long interstate haul, and were running ISDN tails to link individual hospitals to local state hub sites. At the moment we have no hospitals connected to us at less than 64KB, and we’re already running our core systems across that.”

Testing, testing

The company has just completed a pilot project for e-mail. A proposal to roll out e-mail across all facilities is being assessed by HCoA’s board of directors.

While planning the rollout, Moss encountered problems: the host-based mail system he was planning to implement would not support the GUI mouse-driven interface his staff were demanding.

But Moss was reluctant to set up the LAN infrastructure required for the GUI system, saying “We’re trying to run LAN-free. As a matter of policy, as you roll out and install LANs, the administration costs go up, and the support costs go out. So if you can run on direct point-to-point, it’s probably a lot cheaper.”

A decision was made to allow the larger hospitals under the company’s care to implement LANs, but those LANs run independently of the Sun Ultra host. Moss said if these LAN servers were to crash, the hospitals would still be able to connect to the patient management system and the core financial system.

“At the moment I have a Microsoft Exchange server sitting in North Sydney with remote clients connected to it,” explained Moss.

“We set a low router priority on the e-mail so that in the event that a large e-mail leaves the hospital, the traffic is not holding up customer service. So we’re not holding up customers.”

In contrast to the flourishing private health care system, IT departments in public health care have been challenged by the low priority assigned to innovative IT, and a sheer lack of funds.

A report issued by the KPMG consultancy firm last week confirmed what the health care industry and even the public has long suspected — that the public health system’s IT structure is in turmoil. The report, commissioned by the Victorian Department of Human Services, said the public health care industry is underspending in IT.

“One of the key challenges of the hospital sector is the intelligent use of information in IT,” said John Peoples, systems director for business support and projects at the department of Human Services in Victoria. “But it just hasn’t been seen as a major priority in health care.”

The KPMG report found current hospital IT expenditure is under $1000 per equivalent full-time position (EFP), a figure far short of the recommended best practice expenditure of between $12,000 and $22,000 thousand per EFP.

According to the report, a key way that hospitals can move towards the leading edge is by improving communication between the administrating department and the many hospitals located throughout the country. Human Services in Victoria is implementing just such a service as the first stage of major changes. The HosNet information distribution service is the department’s answer to improved communication with the hospitals it manages.

“HosNet is providing electronic connection between the department and every public hospital in Victoria,” said Peoples.

In most cases, HosNet will simply run over existing connections that were previously used to link the hospitals to HCS Australia, developer of the HIS, and manager of the hospitals’ payroll system. Use of the existing infrastructure has meant significant cost savings.

Completing the circle

The wide area network that is HosNet will connect the hospitals’ chief executives (and other staff, if required) using dialup modems and dialup ISDN connections or permanent ISDN connections.

The central site runs Lotus Notes 4.5 on an NT server for secure e-mail and data interchange between head office, regional offices and the hospitals. Currently, there are 106 connections, with over 140 more expected to be added over the next three months.

“Our aim is over a 12 to 18 month period to phase out the distribution of major communications from hard copy to electronic only. So we won’t be sending out our circulars, our financial reports — they will be sent via the system.”

Notes-based HosNet will hold policies, documents and standards, as well as manuals, procedures and financial reports.

It will also contain details on major press releases issued by the department and the Minister on health matters.

Microsoft creates cyberstreet to promote Internet

LONDON, – Microsoft, the U.S. software giant, installed free computers and Internet access to two dozen households in London on Thursday as part of a global marketing push for its Internet software.

Microsoft, which last August launched its Internet service provider the Microsoft Network, known as MSN, connected 23 homes along one street in London’s Islington neighbourhood to create what it called “MSN Street.”

Microsoft claims it is the first time anyone has linked an entire street to the Internet. The brainchild of Microsoft Network’s UK marketing staff, MSN Street is billed as the transformation of “…one conventional north London street into a virtual community of the future.”

“We think it’s the first attempt to dump the Internet into the laps of a real live comunity,” Andrew Baiden, a Microsoft spokesman said at a briefing for MSN Street participants.

Bill Gates, chief executive of Microsoft, said in his book “The Road Ahead” he was sceptical about the importance of the Internet until a couple of years ago, but now felt Microsoft’s future lay in its ability to harness the World Wide Web.

The 23 participating households in London — out of 70 total on the street — are linked to the Internet via personal computers supplied at no cost by Microsoft and free subscriptions to the Microsoft Network.

Microsoft spokesmen asked journalists not to identify the name of the street in London, in order to protect residents’ privacy.

The software company created an “electronic bulletin board” and a “chat room” for the 23 households — part of efforts to demonstrate the Internet links people from far-flung corners of the globe and can also strengthen local community ties.

The market research project will last six months. Participants will keep logs of their Internet usage.

“Journalists would ask us, What are people using the Internet for?” Taylor Collyer, marketing director for the Microsoft Network in the UK. “We thought that’s probably a good thing to know.”

Microsoft also wanted to find out if the Internet could be used to bring a community together.

Of the 23 adults who volunteered to participate in MSN Street, most were familiar with computers but few had Internet experience. Those who did were not necessarily impressed with what they saw.

“That was the problem that impacted on me,” said a barrister named Simon. “I actually got quite bored watching.”

But other MSN Street participants said they had keenly wanted Internet access.

Charlotte, a publisher who works from home, said she had been using the Internet at friends’ houses and was planning on getting her own connection.

“It will be great to use email (electronic mail),” said a journalist named Tom. “As far as the Internet is concerned people tell me there’s a hell of a lot on it, but I don’t know what I’ll use.”

Few of the 23 households knew one another before taking part in the MSN Street experiment. The question remains, can MSN Street create a community?

“My initial reaction was quite cynical,” said Charlotte. “I don’t need a computer to borrow a cup of sugar from my neighbors.” But she said she has warmed to the project’s community features.

Tom, the journalist, said he thought the project might create a community, but he wondered if that could happen had Microsoft not first introduced Street participants to each other. “The chat box, I can’t think that would be very useful. I can’t imagine there’d be four or five people at home at 9 o’clock wanting to talk.”

Microsoft launched its Internet service last August, having finally decided that the Internet was important to its core business.

The Microsoft Network has two million subscribers worldwide, including 110,000 in Britain, and is the world’s third-largest Internet service provider.

79 Ways to Build a Better Web

One of the best ways to build a Web site is to surf for one you like and then view its source code so you can see how various Web-page authors do what they do–it’s a Web tradition. After all, why build a site from scratch if you don’t have to? With that in mind, this story provides dozens of hands-on tips that’ll help you avoid a lot of the heavy lifting it takes to get a Web site off the ground.

For example, the “HTML” section offers a step-by-step guide to hacks that compensate for HTML’s lack of a tag for indenting text and graphics–among other shortcomings. Similarly, in “Browsers,” you’ll learn when and how to use new technologies from Microsoft and Netscape, such as borderless frames and layers, respectively. “Multimedia” focuses on utilities for adding audio, video, and animation to your Web site without bringing users to a crawl. In “Management,” you’ll learn how to lighten the burden of handling hundreds, even thousands, of files scattered across your site.

And in the section on ActiveX, Windows Sources’ AustraliaTaskbar columnist, Paul Bonner, gets you over niggling ActiveX hurdles. For example, he shows you how to get the most from Internet Explorer’s built-in ActiveX controls and, as a result, reduce the amount of code you have to write.

Church and State

Surfing for Tips
If you don’t find the answer to your question in this story, then get online! The best place to start is with a beginner’s guide to HTML. This site is NCSA’s primer for aspiring Web authors, and it includes an overview of HTML and a few simple lessons in Web authoring. For more advanced tips, surf to Microsoft’s sitebuilder workshop, which offers tips not only on HTML but also on programming and administration. And if you want to know what not to do, check out www.earth.com/ bad-style/, which documents common HTML abuses; the home page also includes Yahoo!’s index of page-design and -layout resources, a definite must-surf.

Tip World is a mailing list: Sign up for one or more of the categories, and they’ll e-mail a new tip to you every day for such categories as Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator. Another forum is inquiry.com where experts advise you on topics including C++, Java, VB, VRML, and the Web. You can look through previously answered questions for tips to common problems, or ask your own.For ActiveX questions, check out Windows Sources Expert Answers for ActiveX, hosted by Larry Seltzer.

There are literally hundreds of sites offering Internet tips, including Ask Dr. Internet, which is an online advice column. Just send a question to drnet@promo.net, and you’ll get an answer directly by e-mail. If the good doctor thinks the question is interesting, he’ll post the question and answer online. —Brian C. Wilson

But before you start building your site, you’ve got to make a few difficult choices. Will you stick to church-sanctioned HTML and use only tags that the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has legalised–which all browsers can view? Or will you go for the glitz and build a site that uses every techno-bauble that comes along?

The answer depends on how many people you want to be able to view your site. The first approach, for example, guarantees the widest possible audience but can result in pretty drab-looking pages, because the legal spec (HTML 2.0) lags way behind the state of the art. And if you go for the glitz, you could end up with a hot site, but one that Mosaic or Netscape 1.1 users can barely view (which can test the patience of even devout surfers).

That’s why we recommend using the HTML 3.2 specification which was recently ratified by W3C. Versions 2.x and 3.x of Netscape and Internet Explorer also support all the tags in HTML 3.2. That makes it a safe bet in terms of reaching a large installed base.

Using HTML 3.2, you can create sophisticated pages, although you can’t use proprietary tags such as Netscape’s MULTICOL or Microsoft’s MARQUEE tag, which W3C hasn’t yet sanctioned.

Of course, you can always add hot new features one at a time (with discretion) as the installed base slowly upgrades. (For an excellent breakdown of what HTML 3.2 can and can’t do, set your browser to www.webreference.com/ html3andns/.)

Reality Check

The question of how backward-compatible your site should be is always a key consideration, and one you can base objectively on the percentage of the public that’s using various browser versions. If you want current statistics on how many people are using each of the leading browsers, the best place to look is the Stats Station.

You’ve also got to learn to see your pages the way others see them. This is something many of us forget when developing a Web site offline–a tendency that breeds bad authoring habits. The best remedy for this is to keep several browser versions on your hard disk.

We recommend keeping at least the 2.x and 3.x versions of Netscape Navigator, and a copy of 1.1 or another version of Mosaic. It’s difficult to retain older versions of Internet Explorer, though, because IE’s install routine always forces you to upgrade to the current one. So if you want multiple copies of IE, rename and create a Shortcut to the executable before you upgrade.

Dial in over a 14.4-Kbps connection and view your site remotely with older browsers. Be sure and empty your cache frequently to make sure you’re loading images off the remote server. Are we being a little tough? Sure. But it’s accurate, practical advice and just a sample of what you’ll find on the pages that follow.