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New wave Web addresses; funky new speakers; battery callistenics

June 7, 2008
Times Observer
BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) — The European Commission is aiming for one-fourth of businesses, public authorities and households in the European Union to use next-generation Internet addresses by 2010 because the current system is running out of addresses.

Pushing people toward Internet Protocol version 6, or IPv6, would make available “an almost unlimited” number of Web addresses — just as lengthening telephone numbers has allowed more phones to plug in.

The EU’s internet commissioner said more addresses were needed if Europeans were to use Internet-enabled devices such as smart tags in shops, factories and airports or intelligent heating and lighting systems in their homes. The addresses include long series of numbers to identify a Web connection.

Of the 4.3 billion addresses allowed by the address system most people use now, IPv4, only 700 million — or 16 percent — are still available. IPv4 dates to 1984.

Moving to a next-generation Internet could be like changing the engines on a moving airplane and cost billions of dollars in replaced networking devices, software and personal computers. But advocates say restructuring of the Web’s underlying architecture will improve security, mobility and other emerging needs.

Japan’s Nippon Telecom and Telegraph has already rolled out a public IPv6 network and China plans to put one in place shortly. But the ball isn’t rolling yet in U.S. and Europe, though the U.S. has made IPv6 a condition for government contracts for Web site services.

The EU executive called on European governments to follow suit.

“The Commission also wants the most important Web sites of Europe to take the lead and aims to receive commitments from at least 100 top European Web site operators, such as broadcasters or online news services, before the end of 2008,” it said.

The EU’s Web site will be IPv6-ready by 2010, it promised.

—Aoife White, AP Business Writer

‘Sniff’ out acquaintances, wherever they are

DENVER (AP) — One of texting’s most common messages — “Where r u?” — may become a quaint phrase of the past with a new program that lets your friends and associates find out for themselves.

The program Sniff, which stands for “social network integrated friend finder,” will track down anyone who has signed up and agreed to be “Sniffed.”

Generally for less than $1, Sniff produces a rough address and map for any participant using the same technology rescuers employ to find wayward hikers who call 911 by cell phone — triangulating the caller’s location based on which cell phone towers are nearby.

If you’re lost, you can Sniff yourself.

About 180,000 users in Scandinavia are doing it, and the program recently launched in the United Kingdom, where Sniff searches go for 50 pence.

Denver-based Useful Networks, owned by Liberty Media Corp., says the program is handy for finding friends on the way to happy hour, and it expects at least two major U.S. wireless carriers — CEO Brian Levin wouldn’t say which — to start offering Sniff within weeks through Facebook and

The startup Loopt offers a similar service that automatically updates users’ friends’ locations. And Google Inc.’s Dodgeball will tell all your friends where you are when you sends Dodgeball a message updating your location.

Paula Hammond, executive director of the domestic violence program Project Safeguard in Colorado, worries that Sniff can’t verify whether the person who registers a cell phone to participate actually owns the phone. That loophole could enable a stalker, for instance, to track a victim without her knowing, Hammond says.

Sniff says its periodic reminders to users should tip off people who have been registered without their knowledge, and users can make themselves “invisible” to certain Sniffers.

The company’s also working on giving faux locations to stalkers — and to bosses looking for employees playing hooky — Levin says.

—Catherine Tsai, Associated Press Writer

Sony launches clear, tubular speaker for large spaces, business market

TOKYO (AP) — Sony, the company that brought you the egg-shaped music player and the dog-like robot, has now created the transparent tube speaker.

Called Sountina — a combination of “sound” and “fountain” — the $9,600 acrylic speaker goes on sale June 20 in Japan with sales elsewhere still undecided.

Sony Corp. said the 3.3-foot speaker spreads high-quality, natural-sounding audio 360 degrees around itself by vibrating and can fill hotel lobbies, wedding halls and other large spaces.

Sony officials said the speaker’s exact coverage depends on an area’s interior surfaces.

The tube, slightly thicker than a baseball bat, was shown to reporters at Sony’s Tokyo headquarters Wednesday.

LEDs, or light-emitting diodes, in blue, amber, pink and purple at the bottom of the tube are reflected in the stainless steel at the top of the tube. In a darkened room, they reflect off a steel string dangling inside the tube.

Sony Senior Manager Noriyasu Kawaguchi acknowledged some people may prefer more blast and heavier bass.

“Maybe it doesn’t work in the way some American consumers are expecting their speakers to work,” he said.

The Sountina is for sophisticated consumers, including businesses seeking a speaker that blends into an interior, Kawaguchi said.

Sony has produced many products that show off technology but aren’t expected to sell in numbers, such as the Rolly MP3 player, which went on sale in Japan last year and is promised to arrive in the U.S. this year. Another attention-getter, the Aibo dog robot, was discontinued in 2006.

—Yuri Kageyama, AP Business Writer

Sony offers golf ball-sized speakers for home theaters

TOKYO (AP) — Sony says its newest speakers can deliver the sound of a top-notch home-theater sound system even though they’re just a little bigger than golf balls.

A full Home Theater System HT-IS100 includes five of the roughly cube-shaped 1.7-inch speakers plus a 17-inch-tall combination amplifier and subwoofer for bass sounds.

The $870 set, to go on sale in Japan next month, will be available later in North America and Europe, Sony Corp. spokeswoman Eiko Sato said. But pricing and dates aren’t set.

Sato declined to describe the technology for achieving the miniature size. The system can connect to TVs, disc recorders, Sony’s PlayStation 3 video game console and other gadgets.

—Yuri Kageyama, AP Business Writer

Robot keeps climbing, and climbing, with latest Panasonic batteries

TOKYO (AP) — Watch out Energizer Bunny. Robot Evolta kept climbing and climbing — up a rope dangling from a Grand Canyon cliff for nearly seven hours on a pair of AA batteries that Japan’s Panasonic is billing as the world’s longest lasting.

To prove how durable its new alkaline batteries are, Panasonic had the 5-ounce, 6.7-inch blue imp clasp a rope with its arms and feet and climb as far and long as it could. That turned out to be some 1,740 feet over the course of six hours and 46 minutes, Panasonic, also known as Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., said Tuesday.

The company says the new battery cell — called Evolta, combining “evolution” and “voltage” — can keep gadgets running 20 percent longer than offerings from rivals Duracell and Energizer.

Evolta - $5.40 for four in Japan, about 15 percent higher than other AA batteries — went on sale in April in Japan, with overseas sales planned later this year. The robot was designed by robotics scientist Tomotaka Takahashi.

Guinness World Records certified Evolta as “the longest-lasting AA alkaline battery cell,” based on testing under guidelines set by the industry’s International Electrotechnical Commission this year.

—Yuri Kageyama, AP Business Writer


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