Now That's Using Your Brain

Typing an e-mail with your fingers is a snap. But what if you could do it with your brain?

Brain-wave typing could become reality in just a few years. It would open up a world of communication with caregivers and loved ones for people disabled by ALS, cerebral palsy or high-level spinal-cord injuries. With little or no muscle control, communicating clearly, or even at all is difficult, if not impossible.

Researchers in the brain-computer interface, or BCI, Group at New York State Public Health Department's Wadsworth Center are enrolling patients in trials of a system that could enable them to send e-mail and communicate using their brain waves. They hope to have five to 10 people testing the interface by June.

Worldwide, 170,000 people could potentially be helped by such a device, according to a recent study by Arthur D. Little, a consulting company working with product-development group Cambridge Consultants to create a business plan for the technology.


Microsoft Launches Linux Site

Microsoft Thursday launched a Web site that touts its open-source development efforts, and Windows' interoperability with Unix and Linux.

Port 25 -- The sites named after the server port used to listen for SMTP e-mail traffic -- is an attempt to promote conversations about Microsoft, open source, and how the twain might meet.

Sponsored by the Redmond , Wash. developer's Open Source Software Lab, which is headed by long-time Linux guy Bill Hilf -- formerly of IBM but now Microsoft's general manager of platform technology strategy -- the site will offer blogs and other content on the OSSL's efforts. "This will be the place we not only blog, but also where we put analysis from our OSS labs and also where we discuss and show other parts of Microsoft that we think are just plain cool," wrote Hilf on a welcome blog. "I think what you'll see here over time is how a bunch of open source guys inside Microsoft think."

Opening-day content consisted of blogs by several Labs' researchers, and an article about the OSSL, which houses more than 300 servers running 15+ versions of Unix and 50 Linux distributions.

Hilf is also in charge of the controversial "Get the Facts" anti-Linux PR campaign, and Microsoft's Shared Source, an initiative that gives developers access to some of its source code.

"Overall, I am impressed with the concept (caveat: assuming Microsoft sticks with it)," wrote JupiterResearch analyst Joe Wilcox on his Microsoft Monitor blog. "If Get the Facts is a stick, Port 25 is the carrot."


Mobile Handshake

Bluetooth takes a bite out of networking standards, using low power and multiple connections to spread its increasingly secure message.Bluetooth technology has gotten a bad rap over the years because of the perception that it's plagued by security flaws. But the ability to work with small devices, transfer up to 720 Kbps of data, and transmit waves through walls has earned it a place in many businesses' tech infrastructures

Among them is UPS , where package loaders wear ring scanners that read bar-code data and transfer it via Bluetooth to terminals they wear on their waists. Then, using wireless LAN access points deployed throughout UPS's buildings, data is sent to a global scanning system, which stores all of the information on packages. Buildings are connected via landlines to one of two UPS data centers.

The ring scanners previously were connected to the waist terminals by a cable, but problems such as cables snapping would interrupt data transfer, says John Killeen , UPS 's director of global network services. Bluetooth is ideal for UPS because it has to keep the devices very small and light, Killeen says.

If a customer wants a printed receipt of everything UPS is picking up or delivering, the UPS employee will scan the packages using the DIAD, short for Delivery Information Acquisition Device, which can transmit information obtained from the bar code on the package label to a customer's Bluetooth-enabled printer.

Bluetooth also is being integrated into cars, letting drivers use a car's speakers for conversing with a caller. The technology first appeared in BMWs and other high-end cars, but now can be found in Toyotas and Hondas.


Bird Flu? Keep Cats Indoors

People living in areas where bird flu has been found in poultry or wild birds should keep their cats indoors, say scientists who believe the potential role of felines in spreading the virus is being overlooked.

Cats have been known to become infected with the H5N1 virus and lab experiments show they can give it to other cats, although nobody knows whether they can transmit it to people or poultry, the researchers say in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature .

Scientists know so little about H5N1 in cats that it's difficult to assess the risk they pose when infected, wrote virologist Albert Osterhaus and colleagues at the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, along with Peter Roeder of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

Still, "we believe that the potential role of cats should be considered in official guidelines for controlling the spread of H5N1 virus infection."

In areas where H5N1 has been found in poultry or wild birds, cats should be kept away from infected birds or their droppings, and cats suspected of such contacts or showing symptoms of infection should be quarantined and tested, they wrote. Where possible, cats could be kept indoors to prevent contact, they wrote.


Lenovo Unveils A New Low-Cost Laptop

Lenovo leads off the next generation of small-business portables with its Series 3000 N100.

While Lenovo caused a stir with its innovative ThinkPad X 41 Tablet PC in June 2005, many market watchers passed off Lenovo's success as something it had purchased from IBM . Almost a year later, the next generation of portables has arrived. This time, Lenovo is introducing a new notebook under its own label: the Series 3000 N100. The Lenovo 3000-branded line of notebooks is specifically targeted at small-business professionals, but pricing across the lineup should make it an attractive option for consumers as well.

Lenovo has released a range of systems under the "N100" banner. The $999 basic unit comes with a 1.67GHz T2300 processor, combo DVD player/CD burner, Windows Home Edition, Intel's integrated graphics, an 80GB hard drive, and a 14-inch display. Intel's Pro/Wireless a/b/g Network Connection, a 10/100 Ethernet port, a 56K V.90 modem, four USB ports, side-mounted mic and earphone jacks, and an external monitor port are also part of the package