LAB NOTES

The pen is mightier than the PC? Weary users of 8-pound
notebooks who want something lighter should take a look at a computer pen that claims to
replace mouse and keyboard.


British researchers developed the Smartquill, a literally handheld pen that records
text as you write on paper—or air—by processing changes in pen position.


Memos display on an electronic inkwell and can be uploaded to PCs, notebooks, personal
digital assistants, printers and even mobile phones.


The Smartquill could free up handheld PC users who grumble about their cramped
keyboards. Further development of the motion detection technology could let the Smartquill
act as a pointing device.


In view of size constraints in keyboards and mice, as well as the inherent inefficiency
of QWERTY keyboards, the new input device could open new horizons in mobile and desktop
computing.


For details, point your browser to http://innovate.bt.com/showcase/smartquill/index.htm.


The browser battles continue. And not just in federal
court. Netscape Communications Corp. has released its latest Communicator 4.5, hoping to
recover some of the ground lost to Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.0. Netscape still holds
the lead in the business world, but it faces stiff competition from Explorer 4.0 in both
commercial and business markets.


The new release claims to browse more easily, e-mail more robustly and work better in
enterprise environments. It comes in two versions: the standard and the business-oriented
Communicator 4.5 with enterprise calendaring.


Download the new browser from http://www.netscape.com.


Have we met before? The word on the street is that
Intel Corp.’s 64-bit Merced chip design may not be as original as originally thought.
The chip giant reportedly is holding talks with S3 Inc. of Santa Clara, Calif., about
possible infringement of patents held by S3.


The controversy follows Intel’s rough-and-tumble fight with the pre-Compaq Digital
Equipment Corp. about similarities between Intel’s and Digital’s chips, and
other lawsuits with Intergraph Corp.


Considering how far behind Merced’s development is, the talks with S3 likely will
have no effect on the release date of the server chip.


Less is more. Or at least it is for most PDA and
notebook users. Every time LCD screens get bigger or processors get faster, battery life
takes a nosedive.


Hitachi Ltd. recently announced a new chip set to drive LCD screens in handheld
computers. The chip set reportedly uses only half as much power as previous models and
will go into volume production in March. So you might soon be able to run your 3Com Corp.
PalmPilot all day.


—Jason Byrne
Internet: jbyrne@gcn.com

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