Lost Packets: Networking News and Trivia

Gabber gadget breaks Beijing barriers

To help visitors overcome the language barrier during the 2008 Olympics, Chinese services company CapInfo has made a Motorola flip-phone speak Chinese. Using GPRS technology, the handset will be a guidebook containing text, images and videos about historic sites and directions to those sites as well as other places like hotels and restaurants. An English and Mandarin phrase book is also included in the guidebook, which can be read out loud by the phone using a text-to-speech converter. However, if there is a phrase that is beyond the book, users can talk to a call centre in their native tongue to get specific phrases translated with one push of a button.

Adidas dreams up goal-deciding chip-ball

At next year’s soccer World Cup in Germany, organizers are toying with the idea of using a chip-enabled soccer ball to decide whether a goal has been scored or not. The technology uses an ASIC chip (application-specific integrated circuit) with an integrated transmitter to send data. The chips, designed by Adidas, are suspended in the middle of the ball to survive acceleration and hard kicks. The technology has already undergone tests in a stadium in Nuremberg, Germany that was outfitted with 12 antennae in light masts and other locations in the arena, which then collected the data transmitted using the same frequency as Wi-Fi. The information was then sent to Linux-based servers. No decision has been made by FIFA, the world soccer body, but it hopes to use the technology to help referees make crucial goal-line calls and also to determine whether or not a ball has gone out of bounds.

Limber up to keep those thumbs nimble

Excessive use of a BlackBerry can be hazardous to one’s health. “BlackBerry Thumb” is starting to strike users of the popular handheld device. Heavy thumb use can lead to painful swelling of the sheath around the tendons in the thumb. However, there are no statistics on how many people suffer from this ailment. To help relieve some of the symptoms, the American Society of Hand Therapists recommends frequent breaks during e-mailing and resting one’s arms on a pillow for support. As well, the use of external keyboards would also help alleviate pain from excessive typing. Treatment for the malady may include wearing a splint and applying ice to the affected area. If the pain still persists, doctors can inject the thumb area with a cortisone shot and surgery is done only as a last resort.

Bell coins key-card cellular vending machine

There’s no time to be fumbling for the right coins when you’ve got an unquenchable thirst. Bell Canada and Kingston, Ont.-based Ambassador Conference Resort completed trials this past June to hopefully make that scenario a thing of the past. The trial, the first in Canada, had Ambassador guests pay for Coca-Cola beverages such as pop, water and juices using either their hotel room key card through the vending machine’s card reader or through their mobile phone to directly purchase the drinks. The information from the phones was sent over a wireless network with applicable charges appearing on guest invoices at final check-out. The trial showed 99.9 per cent system reliability and included increased sales with no attempts to vandalize the cashless vending machines.

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