Thursday, 28 February 2002

Newsletter Issue 40, February 2002

Sam Young Newsletter

Issue 40, February 2002
Hi guys,
Check out Technology Trends below, where I take a quick look at how IT is impacting on us all. And if you happen to  Remember Project Oxygen? from December 1999 and a couple of follow ups in 2000, there is a bit of an update and a link to MIT's website. 
Don't forget, if you want to be taken off my mailing list, click here to send me a reply e-mail and I will remove your name.

Technology Trends

In 2000, nearly 110 million people in the US used a cellphone (39%), 113 million adults were wired for the net and US Baby Boomers bought more CDs than any other age group. While we don't take those measures in NZ, I would imagine that the same trends hold true in Godzone. 
This snapshot of Americans as technology consumers comes from their Census Bureau's "Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2001." You can check out the tables at the Census website 
The stats show how rapidly technology is changing the American way of life;
  • In 1982, vinyl albums ruled the music world, with sales of US$1.9 b. In 2000, CD sales were US$13.2 b, with vinyl struggling along at US$28 m
  • Cellphone use in the States exploded between 1990 and 2000. In 1990 there were 5.3 million US mobile accounts. By 2000 there were 109.4 m (the rise is attributed to falling costs, as average monthly US cellphone bills have decreased from US$81 to US$45 over the past decade)
  • Tel-co industry growth is demonstrated spectacularly by the rise in employees, from about 21,000 in 1990 to 185,000 in 2000
  • The Internet arrived even faster. In 1998, 26% of Americans had Internet access at home. By 2000, that had jumped to 42%
  • R&D Spend in the States, totalling US$265 b, moved from 53% Defence spending in 1960 down to 14% in 2000. In 2000, Space R&D spend, which peaked in the early 1960s at 21% is the same as 1960 at 3%. The remaining 83% in 2000 was spent by private industry, educators & non-military research institutions
  • As of February 2000, the average person had worked 3 & 1/2 years for their current employer. Fewer than 1 worker in 10 had been with the same employer for 20 years or more
Here in New Zealand, our 2001 Census stats show;
  • IT goods and services sales in 2000 was estimated at NZ$11,133 m; 6.9% higher than 1999 
  • 42.8% of NZers have a PC at home (a conservative estimate), up from 32.9% in 1998... a major rise from 10% in 1988 (and hey, I was one of those!)
  • 50% of us have access to the internet, with 28% of those accessing the internet more than once each day and 26% every two days or less
  • 21.3% of us had a cellphone in 1998
  • Interestingly, our Tel-co manufacturing employees have held fairly steady with 1990 stats and Tel-co service providers have reduced by 1/3 (due both to retrenching of staff through deregulation, and to not being a truly competitive manufacturing nation)
  • 68% of NZ businesses are connected to the internet for email, with 33% having their own domain name (NB: may not have a website tho). Ozzies, by the same measures, have 57% of businesses using email with 27% holding domain names
  • While PC buying trends are slowing, software purchasing trends are increasing (NB: the release of new hardware technology would probably reverse that trend temporarily).
While Cellphone growth trends are currently tapering down in NZ, the next technology round and the digital network upgrade will force many users to retool, so we may be looking at a mid-term Tel-co boom over the next two years.
We are becoming IT junkies, people, whether we like it or not! Luddites need not apply...

Remember Project Oxygen?

Do you remember in a couple of earlier articles I have mentioned MIT's collaborative Project Oxygen? 
To refresh your memory, MIT's famed Laboratory for Computer Science (LCS) had a vision: to facilitate pervasive, human-centered computing. In 2000, LCS, together with MIT's Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, launched an ambitious effort to build that vision, called Project Oxygen. 
With 30 faculty members, Project Oxygen is researching technologies designed to replace the PC with ubiquitous—and often invisible—"computing machines". Funny, sounds like a PC to me! But no. They are looking at UNIVERSAL computers that can recognise anyone based on information on the network. Doesn't matter where you are, you can use any machine to access your data & info. Linked projects run the gamut from video recognition to nomadic networking to chip design. 
To supply the dosh required, a consortium of private companies (including the Acer Group, Philips, Delta Electronics, Hewlett-Packard, NTT and Nokia) coughed up US$30 m and the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency, $20 m. 
Some of the things that they are aiming for are truly brilliant;
  • Move from specifying the precise IP address of devices to something more functional and intentional like "the nearest uncongested colour printer." 
  • The H21 camera unit looks up, seeing a dark face with bright lights behind it. So the adaptive camera & software adapts to the brightness level so the user get orders of magnitude more brightness variation
  • The team have made surprisingly fast progress in networking. "Migrate" is an architecture for vertical host mobility where the user can change network protocols from home to car to office, all without involving a third party. Using dynamic updates to the DNS to track host location, existing connections are retained using connection migration; enabling connections to negotiate a change in endpoint IP addresses
  • Awesome voice recognition. The user can say, "call home," to ANY H21 unit in your office and it will (a) recognise the user and (b) turn itself into a cell phone and dial the right number and then (c) on completion promptly forget everything about me and return to its anonymous state
  • No headsets. The equipment will use microphone arrays. In the Intelligent Room, they are combining arrays with personal tracking technology using video and looking at incorporating lip motion recognition. When an intelligent room gets crowded, the computer knows who to pay attention to through a combination of speech and vision; facial expressions, lip reading and steering the microphone array toward the person whose mouth is moving
There are some pretty serious privacy issues that the team have to come to grips with; 
  • "Nomadicity"; people and devices are going to move around a lot, so  location-aware support must be provided. But we don't want to be tracked...  so there are a whole bunch of scalability and privacy issues to be resolved
  • Anonymity; Devices must be able to maintain our anonymity after we have used them (not leave our info in the machine after we have made our call) otherwise we will all still have to carry a host of assorted gizmos with us as we do now
  • Personalisation; we must be able to transform and customise those anonymous devices to suit our needs so our info can follow us around. 
  • Security: the personalisation must be secure enough so as not to result in the invasion of our individual privacy
For a brief on the project itself, check out

Multi-messenger Service: Trillian

Have you used those instant messenger (IM) services? MSN? ICQ? And has it annoyed you that you have to have each programme running to be able to receive messages for those users of each programme whom you want to talk to?
Well, then along came Trillian. This is a single IM client that works for all IM systems. You get one window showing all your ICQ, MSN and AOL friends. 
One year ago Trillian wasn't very good, but it has been considerably improved; easier to install and configure, lots of display options, and optional 'skins' allowing you to reduce the amount of screen real-estate Trillian takes up. 
Once installed , you simply insert your login name and password for each of the IM systems you use (and relax. Trillian has been in business for years without misusing private information and they are likely to continue to operate without any security breaches). 
NOTE: Check the Display Name setting for each IM account before using Trillian. The only problem I have heard about during setup was a big one; the MSN password of the user was displayed as the user's chat name (dunno if a mistake or software bug), so verify all your chat names etc are correct before using the software for the first time. 
Check out Trillian at Get the latest version direct from the makers since there are regular updates to keep up with changes by the IM makers; freeware download @ Skins @

TLAs for SMEs

Here are this newsletter's TLAs for you;
  • COTS, commercial off-the-shelf. Used "as-is", easily installed and inter-operates with existing system components. Almost all mass-produced & (relatively) low cost OS, email & Office software fits in this category
  • MOTS, Modified/modifiable off-the-shelf. Typically a COTS product whose source code can be/is modified by a commercial vendor to respond to specific customer requirements. Adapted for a specific purpose, it can be purchased and used immediately
  • GOTS, Government off-the-shelf. Usually developed by the technical staff of the government agency for which it is created. Sometimes developed by an external entity, but with government funding and specs
  • NOTS, Niche off-the-shelf. Vendor-developed software for a specialized and narrow market segment

Please feel free to email me with any TLAs that you want to get the bottom (meaning!) of.

Short & Hot Keys... and now tips
All the Function keys for you - this time it's all you can do with Alt/Ctrl & F4;
  • Access "To quit Microsoft Access, close a dialog box, or close a property sheet or Close the active Help window" ALT & F4 
  • Access "To open a combo box" F4 
  • Access, Excel, PowerPoint, Word "Close the active window/document" CTRL & F4
  • Excel, PowerPoint "Repeat the last action" F4
  • PowerPoint, Word "Exit" ALT & F4 
  • Publisher "Exit Publisher, or close Help or close the dialog box. For most dialog boxes, any changes you made are cancelled." ALT & F4 
  • Outlook "Close the selected Outlook window; if this is the only open window, close Outlook." ALT & F4 
  • Windows "Close the current window or quit a program " ALT & F4 
  • Windows "Close the current window in (MDI) programs" CTRL & F4
Hot Linx
If you want to give yourself a fright at how fast the world's population is growing, check out
You must check out the Hooked on Seafood Festival coming to Nelson on March 23. Check out the details at 
Checked out INL's website yet? Stuff's a goodie at 
Still wanting to download mp3 music files? Then check out both AudioGalaxy @ and AudioGnome @ 
Wanting to burn or copy music CDs that will play in your stereo? Then freeware is not for you. Purchase MP3 CD Maker for US$30 at . And it's worth it.

                                Catch you again soon!! E-mail your suggestions to me here