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The new iMac, aliens and too much bass may be bad for the lungs

The next generation of Apple’s popular iMac line of computers was released last week, to the joy of technogeeks everywhere. The first generation was an all-in-one bubble, with five bubble colours to choose from.

The next generation of Apple’s popular iMac line of computers was released last week, to the joy of technogeeks everywhere.

The first generation was an all-in-one bubble, with five bubble colours to choose from. The monitor, hardware, speakers and CD-Rom were incorporated into the bubble, which was about the size of a conventional computer monitor, taking up less desk space in the process. We still have five of them in the Pique office, and all of them are still functional.

The next generation incorporated a pose-able flat screen monitor perched on a neat little white dome that contained all the hardware, software and ports, as well as the CD or DVD drive. This unique design was a space saver, but because it incorporated a LCD screen the prices never really went down.

The most recent generation is spectacular, moving all the hardware, ports and drives into the area behind the screen, and perching the whole works onto a sturdy aluminum stand. It’s an all-in-one system, like a laptop without the portability, and it is available for desktop prices (starting at $1,799 Cdn) for a 17-inch monitor. For people who liked the simple, space-saving features of Apple’s iMac line, this next generation computer, which comes with G5 processors rated at 1.6 and 1.8 Gigaherz, is going to be an easy sell.

Or so Apple hopes. Since 1991 Apple has seen its market share of the home PC market drop from 9.6 per cent to just two per cent. Without more customers, it will be impossible for the company to drop hardware and software prices, and compete against the Windows and Linux-based home computing systems offered by companies like Dell, HP, eMachines, and others on a level playing field.

Because of the new iMac’s cool factor, the advances of products like the iPod and iBook, and the competitive price, investment firms are expecting big things from Apple over the next few quarters.

After getting my eMac I know I’m a believer. Anyone want to lend me $50G’s to buy stock?

Alien radio waves?

There may be a perfectly rational explanation, but scientists with the Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence (also known as SETI), believe they may have detected radio waves from an alien intelligence, coming from somewhere between the Pices and Aries constellations more than 1,000 light years away. No, really, that’s what they’re saying.

The signal has already been picked up six times by a powerful radio telescope in Puerto Rico, with the signal rising and falling in such a way to suggest the rotation of a distant planet. The frequency of the broadcast doesn’t appear to be natural, and is broadcast at the same frequency as hydrogen – something scientists were looking for because hydrogen is one of the most abundant elements in the universe, and was considered to be the most likely way for an alien civilization to make contact.

Interestingly enough, the first faint signals were detected through the SETI@Home project, a program that uses thousands of home computers that are at rest to sift through the mountains of data collected by an array of radio telescopes. Which means that a home computer that is probably used for school reports surfing sports Web sites and trading recipes, may have helped us make first contact with another life form.

The article on the signal is in the September issue of New Scientist magazine at www.newscientist.com.

For more information on the find and SETI itself, visit www.seti.org.

Microsoft delays then downsizes Longhorn

Windows XP users may be looking at downloading Service Pack 3 and 4 before they see a new version of the popular operating system. After announcing plans to delay the release from 2005 to 2006 earlier this summer, the software giant Microsoft announced last week they would have to cut some features from the operating system to make their release date.

The most significant feature being dropped from the release is WinFS, or Windows File System, a next generation storage system that allows for the more fluid searching, organizing and sharing of data. The system is required to simplify the way people find information on their own computers, with hard drives reaching the 160 Gig range and above, and people collecting and storing more data than ever before. You can also search for a wider range of data, including data by location, tasks, contacts, appointments, annotations, audio, video, text, etc.

A beta version of WinFS will be available in 2006, and will likely be included as part of a Windows Service Pack in 2007.

Unfortunately the decision to drop WinFS will impair other Windows features as well, including the Microsoft Business Framework, a set of developer tools designed to build on and enhance the .Net framework. That in turn affects the development of other software platforms, like Visual Studio.

Turn down the bass

At university, I knew a guy who used to enter car stereo contests. He and others were able to build stereo systems that cranked out so many decibels, you had to stand at least a hundred feet away from the car and activate the systems by remote control. Super-reinforced glass was also required, so you didn’t shatter the windows or the windscreen.

"That many decibels," he explained. "could kill a person."

In the medical journal Thorax, doctors examined the cases of four men who suffered lung collapses that appear to have been triggered by loud music. Three of the men were in a club and another was in his car, which was rigged with a 1,000 watt bass box.

The doctors believe that the low bass sound could cause ruptures in the walls of the lung, allowing air to leak out and the lung to collapse.

Although this kind of lung collapse is quite common and rarely fatal, doctors are asked to be on the lookout for cases of pneumothorax that might have been triggered by music.

At the very least, turning the bass down may save your hearing. The louder the bass, the more our lungs and ear drums vibrate. The more they vibrate, the more likely they are to rupture or suffer other forms of damage.




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