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Cutting Edge

Flash: Facelifts All Around
Campaigners in the ongoing PC vs. Mac debate have something new to bicker about: Microsoft and Apple have both come out with operating system upgrades. Windows Millennium, also known by its cutesy-pie nickname Windows Me, has finally hit the shelves. No big changes here, but there are a few extra goodies included like Media Player 7, Windows Movie Maker and a "wizard" for setting up a home network. Perhaps the biggest improvement is a feature that prevents users from overwriting required files.

Over in the Mac camp, Apple has released the beta version of OS X. It features a new interface that moves items fluidly, and a "dock" that looks suspiciously like a Windows task bar. Best of all, OS X will continue running if an application crashes — a major improvement. Before you go rushing off to the Apple website to buy it ($29.95) you should know that it will only work if you've got 128 MB of memory. Apple says the final version will work with 64 MB.

Illustration by Emilio Rivera III.

Convergence: Regaining Control of Remotes
The majority of encounters with remote controls — those devices that are supposed to simplify our lives — begin with a frustrating attempt to find the one you want among the pile on the coffee table. But the folks at STMicroelectronics and Digital Mobility say they can streamline that process. They've devised a new chip set that can turn a WAP-enabled cellphone into a universal remote control. Using Bluetooth wireless technology, the chips let you control all kinds of home appliances through a WAP browser on the phone. Or for that personal touch, you can call in your command to a Bluetooth transmitting device in the home. Don't throw out that pile yet though. You won't see a WAP remote until mid-to-late 2001.

Asiaweek Pictures.

MP3: Musical Slide Show, To-Go
Samsung has come up with a carry-out version of the 1970s choreographed slide show. The Photo Yepp MP3 player lets you view images on a two-inch LCD screen while listening to your favorite songs. It comes with a 32 MB SmartMedia card for storing JPEG and MP3 files. At the moment, you have to select and sequence the pictures and music yourself. That sounds like an awful lot of trouble but Samsung hopes commercial music producers and online service providers will eventually offer programs of their own that you can download. The Photo Yepp is already available in Korea for $360, and should be out in the rest of Asia later this year. Okay, to the MTV veteran, it will look pretty dull. But at the moment, music videos aren't portable. Until memory capacity gets a whole lot bigger, this will have to do.

On CD: Formula for Human Life
Readers of Britain's intellectual Prospect magazine will get a free bonus this week. A compact disk stuck to the front cover of the monthly periodical carries the genetic instructions for making a human being. Tim Hubbard, a leading scientist in the international consortium that finished mapping the human genome in June, has compressed the 3 billion chemical letters that make up the genome code onto a regular CD. Users can look at the whole DNA sequence, the 23 chromosomes and the 10,000 genes that have been identified.


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