Table of Contents




Title Technology Today 
by Robert Sanborn

September 2002

I have been looking at a lot of interesting new computers lately and have found some interesting things about them. First of all, they seem to be getting both bigger and smaller but sometimes I begin to think that the manufacturers are not keeping up with the changing technology all that well. While I can see plenty of Pentium IV computers available out there, there are some things that I would have thought to become standard features. One being the new USB 2.0 standard. It is going to be 480 megabits per second (mbps) transfer rate versus the current standard 12 mbps. This allows you to connect fast scanners, digital cameras, and external CD burners to your computers. Another would be the Firewire connection for fast digital imaging and video capture. Yet most new computers ignore these features and I for one if buying a brand new computer that I will be keeping several years, would want them for the flexibility of adding new technologies.  

The other thing I am seeing is there is a bunch of new very small computers. A lot of people want to downsize and are finding that companies like Asus and AOpen have some pretty interesting offerings. These are now called bookshelf computers as they are just a bit bigger than the notebooks and yet are still separate units still requiring a keyboard, mouse, speakers, and monitor. These are really neat units but there are things you need to watch out for. I like the AOpen case because it uses standard micro-atx mainboards. What that also gives you is a standard sized 5.25 bay for the CD ROM drive, 3.5 bay for the floppy drive, and usually three internal PCI slots and a bay for a 3.5 inch hard drive. All off the shelf components and that is why I like this one. CasEdge is another manufacturer I saw recently has two version of the book shelf system. One is like the above and the other is of a similar size but requires a slim height CD rom drive and slim height floppy drive. What that means is that if something goes wrong, you have more expensive parts to replace. The other thing to watch on these is that the mainboard doesn’t become integrated to the case like in some Compaq computers of the past.  

Another Eye in the Sky 

Probably the next big technology wave that everyone will be adopting in the next few years will be GPS based navigation. GPS or Global Positioning Satellite is actually a number of satellites that are run by our military arms of the US Federal Government but have really blossomed into a technology for the rest of us as much as cell phones and the internet have. But you know, it is pretty crowded up there in the skies and will get even more so in the next few years as the European Union is developing its own GPS technology that naturally, will be different from ours. I first got wind of this in reading the Business Weekly supplement published by China Daily. In it, China is rumored to be set to join the EU’s multi-billion dollar Galileo satellite navigation system. When active, it will allow you to pinpoint yourself (or anything else that you are looking for and are tracking) to within a meter in distance. That is pretty darn close. It is based on the same type of technology that the US GPS systems are based on but will be run by a consortium of businesses and governments in the European Union.  See their web site at http://europa.eu.int/comm/energy_transport/en/gal_intro_en.html


Their system will be based on 30 satellite and ground systems around the world. Lest you be surprised by this, you should also know that the Russians have had such a system, called, Glonass, operating for quite a while but have unfortunately for them, not been able to develop the non-military side of the systems as much as the Americans. So here comes a third system that by the year 2008 should be operational. This system is expected to be a complementary system to our own GPS and give the Europeans a more stable and more confident technology. Another good link to find out more about Galileo is at http://www.mobilecomms-technology.com/projects/galileo/index.html.

 What does that mean for the rest of us? Probably not too much as long as you stay within the confines of North America. But if you are thinking of traveling overseas and want to use the GPS unit that you have, you may find that it just gets a little out of range. Naturally, there will be several companies stepping into the market with Galileo based units and there will soon be some that can read both systems.  I liked reading the EU web site that I note above as they talk about the unreliability of our GPS system, and the fact that this will be a very inexpensive system to build and run only coming in at $3.2 billion. You bet. But it is interesting reading about the benefits and applications that they talk about including the usual mapping, traffic control, lost hikers, and the like. They also talk about using it to help map weather patterns, tracking pollutants, icebergs, earthquakes and the like. As I said before, you will find a GPS system in nearly everything that moves or wants to. And besides, the GPS unit you have today will certainly be gone by the time everything gets going in the year 2008.

 But will it be simply a redundant system that is not needed? In February of this year, the US Government issued its own thoughts on the Galileo system and you can read it at http://www.useu.be/Galileo/Feb1202GalileoBraibanti.html.  I wonder what happened to all those Iridium satellites ?

Finally, if you are interested in learning more about the Russian satellite navigation system, Glonass, you can see much more at: http://www.spaceandtech.com/spacedata/constellations/glonass_consum.shtml

 Short Takes

It looks like the new round of digital cameras are starting to make the rounds and these look pretty good. Lots of megapixels, features, and from good quality names like Minolta, Canon, Contax among others. If you want a good review of some of the new ones, take a look at the latest copy of Digital Camera (vol 5, no. 24), www.digicamera.com. This current issue is a really good one with reviews of a lot of new high end cameras, some great tips and FAQs that they have picked up, and a great add in for Adobe Photoshop to balance the color between photographs. You won’t find much on the web site but this particular copy of the magazine has a lot of very good information, especially in the FAQ area.

 I don’t know about you but shopping for computer equipment gets to be more of a pain all the time. I have found a couple of web sites that I use regularly to help me narrow down the field when I am searching for a good printer, scanner, digital camera, and what not. The first that I look at is PC Worlds review’s page at http://www.pcworld.com/reviews/. For most categories of items, they have their own top ten list with very well written reviews of the items you are looking for.  To keep them honest, I like to look over at Ziff Davis site of their magazines at http://www.zdnet.com/reviews/. You have to look for the section called “top rated”, otherwise you will just see what they are currently reviewing. For price shopping, there are a lot of web sites from Computer Shopper to Google to look for pricing but I wanted to find what was the best recommendations. Of course, you have to take all of these with a grain of salt. For instance, I wanted to see what the best 19 inch monitor was available.  The Ziff site did not rate them at all. PC World rated the Viewsonic GS790 the best and the Dell P992 at the bottom. As would have it, the recent Consumer Reports magazine rated monitors in the latest issue (Sept), and rated the Dell P992 the best and the one Viewsonic they looked at was near the bottom. Go figure. What is worse, when you look at the monitors in the stores, two of the most common names we see in our area, KDS and Envision, were not even listed on either chart.

Robert Sanborn is an Independent Personal Computer Consultant, and a contributing editor for the Indianapolis Computer Society. Reach him through the net at indypcnews@indy.rr.com

Last Update:02/07/2011


Copyright © 1999 - 2012 PC Lifeline