Hes Got Your Number
Stephen Hawking, in "God Created the Integers: The Mathematical Breakthroughs That Changed History," has selected 17 of the greatest mathematicians and collected their important works in one volume, with biographical information about each along with useful commentary about what their achievements meant to the advancement of society.
I cant quibble with the theories laid out in the book, published last month by Running Press and priced at $29.95 (hardcover). But at 1,160 pages, its easy to confess that I havent read every word.
"God Created the Integers" is, however, a fascinating return to high school and college math courses and, if nothing else, is a useful stimulant to review long-dormant algebra and calculus lessons.
Alan Turing, the last person discussed in the collection, is of great personal interest to me—his work during World War II helped crack the Nazi Enigma encryption scheme. Hawking puts Turing in the social context of the time, pointedly making clear that Turing was able to accomplish brilliant mathematical feats despite the pressures to conform with stifling social norms, although in 1954 Turing committed suicide at the age of 42.
Buy the book for the impressive pages of mathematical formulas, but read it for the biographical sketches and the way math is explained in theoretical and social terms.
Blink Gets PCs, Bluetooth Talking
Broadcom and Avanquest Software (formerly BVRP Software) have partnered to offer Blink, a new collection of tools that makes connecting a PC to Bluetooth-based devices a snap.
Ive never been a big fan of Bluetooth devices, as I always feel the drain on my device battery isnt offset by the convenience factor. And getting some Bluetooth devices to work right can be a pain.
However, using Blink in conjunction with an EDR Bluetooth USB dongle, I could easily get my PC talking to my Bluetooth-enabled Sony Ericsson T637 cell phone. The included Mobile PhoneTools Lite program presented a wizard that guided me through the steps needed to get going with my specific device—and there were a fair number of devices listed in the wizard.
Once connected, I found that with Blink, I could dial my cell phone from my PC, check CallerID and answer incoming calls onscreen, and easily transfer files and pictures to and from my phone. I could also sync my contacts with Outlook or Outlook Express.
Broadcom has partnered with several USB dongle manufacturers that will provide the software free with the purchase of a dongle. Avanquest also sells the full Mobile PhoneTools application on its Web site, priced at $40.
This Mouse Reads Your Mail
Now, fresh from the Darth Vader school of desk accessories, comes yet another black-and- silver beast from Logitech. The MX 610 Laser Cordless Mouse is (the company tells you this right away) "the worlds first mouse to receive data from a PC."
What Logitech has done is add software that interfaces with Microsoft Outlook and with popular instant messaging clients to light up LEDs on the mouse when theres new incoming traffic, along with shifting the radio frequency range up to 2.4GHz to increase the operating range from near-desk to next-room.
Why would you want to carry your mouse into the next room, where you cant even see the computer screen? Well, in addition to its incoming-alert LEDs, the MX 610 also offers remote volume controls for the PC that likewise work around a corner or even through a wall. Thats something I find even more useful.
Unlike its notification functions, the MX 610s basic mouse and volume-control operations work even without installing Logitechs driver software—which I prefer not to do on a laptop machine to avoid the conflicts Ive sometimes encountered with touch-pad controls. Just plug in the little USB transceiver , wait for plug and play to detect the device, and youre good to go—with Logitechs Star Wars-class laser tracker giving excellent results on every surface Ive tried, including some deliberately difficult (smooth and shiny) sample surfaces provided by Logitech.
The $59.95 device is a little slimmer, a little lighter (at 5 ounces versus 6 ounces), and a little less encrusted with buttons and rockers than Logitechs MX 1000 Laser Cordless Mouse—whose more robust feel I personally prefer.
What Im wondering, though, is whether security-conscious environments are ready for the idea of a user plugging a radio transmitter into a PC to send e-mail tracking information to a remote device.
Whoa! Hey, in addition to LEDs for incoming messages, why not a little scrolling LCD that shows the message headers? Or maybe a little bit of flash memory that captures the 10 most recent incoming messages and lets you display them on another PC?
Theres a boundary thats being blurred when an input device starts having two-way conversations with an application, let alone relaying those conversations to a remote device that the user might not even realize is there. (Yes, my Jedi apprentice, you can plug in the transmitter and enable the remote capabilities even if another mouse is also being used.)
Im not sure that were ready to cross that line.
Go to www.logitech.com for more information.