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17th January 1999
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'Electronic' new generation

With 'electronic ink,' a printed page can be a work in progress

How would you feel if these words disappeared tonight and a whole new story took its place? What if books told a new tale next week?

These are the kinds of things researchers and marketers talk about when they ponder electronic ink, the Associated Press reported. 

Like regular ink, it's printed on an ordinary surface. But, like a chameleon, it can change the patterns it shows. 

After all, electronic ink means never having to say you're finished. There's no final edition of an electronic newspaper; it just updates its stories or signs that change according to its environment. 

Electronic ink isn't the only high-tech way to post information, of course. Some hotels already use indoor changeable signs somewhat like the liquid-crystal displays on electronic calculators. 

The E Ink approach draws on research by Joseph Jacobson and colleagues at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It too uses tiny dots, but they are transparent spheres in the ink itself and only about the width of a human hair. 

Inside each sphere is a bunch of tiny particles in a dye. These particles dash from one side of the sphere to the other when they're exposed to an electric charge. 

Say the particles are white and the dye is black. If the particles are hidden by the dye, the sphere looks black. But when the particles hustle toward you, crowding against the near side of the transparent spheres like children's noses at a candy store window, the sphere turns white. 

By controlling that movement sphere by sphere, scientists can change the image on a sign or a printed page. The electric charge that moves the particles comes from two arrays of transparent electrodes, one on each side of the ink layer. 

Black and white won't be the only options. E Ink says it will be able to provide a range of colours. 

Back home, those customers may someday read books with ever-changing stories. Once they finished "The Red Badge of Courage," they could plug into the Internet and replace Stephen Crane with Stephen King. Pages might include animation or even video clips; users could adjust the type size and style as they wish. 

Electronic books are on the market, but they present words on screens. People might prefer to read on paper, says Kenneth Bronfin, senior vice president at the Hearst Corp.'s new-media group. Hearst, which publishes books, newspapers and magazines, is among companies that invested a total of $15.8 million in E Ink this year. 

Blue moon

Ever heard or used the phrase 'once in a blue moon'. 

It is supposed to mean that it rarely ever happens. Come to think of it how can there be a blue moon, if there is a blue moon why not a red, green or pink moon. Occasionally the moon takes on unusual colours, but most often it tends to be reddish. The occasional blue or bluish-green moon can take place when a lot of dust is present in the air, such as after a volcanic eruption.

The blue moon is just a term and has nothing to do with the colour of the moon. 

A blue moon is when a month has two full moons; the second is known as a "blue" moon, though it only rarely has a blue tint that unusual atmospheric conditions can supply.

When the full moon took its place on the year's first night sky, it begun an unusual series of full moons not seen for more than eight decades. There will be two full moons in January, none in February, and two again in March. That last occurred in 1915.

After January's double full moon, February manages to skip a full moon. The next full moon after January's full moon is on the first of March. The full moon of March is variously known as the sap moon, crow moon or Lenten moon and come the 31March the second blue moon for the year and the second full moon for the month.

At 28 days, it's the only month short enough to accomplish the feat. February last lacked a full moon in 1961 and will miss one again in 2018.

The moon's cycle varies from 29.2 days to 29.9 days, averaging 29.53. Thus, a month with 30 or 31 days has a complete cycle of all four phases of the moon. 

APL wins major logistics contract for GM in Thailand

American President Lines (APL) has announced that it will manage a complex international supply chain for General Motors new auto plant located 150 kilometres south of central Bangkok. 

Reflecting a long-term focus on Asia's economic recovery, GM is now establishing a major regional manufacturing centre in Thailand.

GM's initial plans are to produce approximately 40,000 vehicles annually at the new site. Parts for this assembly line will be sourced globally, including strong local sourcing initiatives in Thailand and other Asian countries.

APL will design optimized transportation routes through the use of lean materials management concepts. 

It will also monitor the performance of transportation vendors, the planning and load sequencing of containerized shipments, detailed shipment tracking, customs clearance and drayage to and from the plant.

NBC Container Depot Co., Ltd., its affiliate in the NOL Group, will perform brokerage activities within Thailand and will operate a round-the-clock trucking service within Thailand to shuttle just-in-time parts to the plant.

APL said in the announcement that the company's 14 years of experience in providing supply chain services tailored to the automotive industry was a key factor in winning this contract.

DCL begins exports service to US

Direct Container Line, Inc (DCL) has commenced export services from Europe to the United States, South America, Central America and the Caribbean. DC's Continental European Operation will be based in Rotterdam, under the direction of Jan Van Campenhout.

With the opening of the Rotterdam office, DCL has moved closer in fulfilling its global strategy to offer the customer the ability to move freight anywhere in the world and will offer both FCL and LCL services a news release says.

With Rotterdam as the principal gateway, this weekly service will move LCL cargo from throughout Europe into London, Rotterdam, Barcelona, Paris, Milan, and Gothenburg for export to the United States.

Within the United States, the principal receiving gateways for LCL cargo will be Miami and New York, with transit times of twelve and seven days respectively from Rotterdam. DCL will offer direct LCL service to 52 receiving stations with delivery service throughout the United States.

Freight will be transshipped from the Miami hub, to over 40 destinations throughout the Caribbean, South America and Central America, with many destinations being on a direct basis.

DCL, the premier US ocean export services company, was founded in 1978 and offers complete ocean freight services to more than 325 worldwide destinations. DCL has been awarded the President's "E" and "E Star" citations by the US Department of Commerce, in recognition of its work promoting US Exports.

Unseating the Mouse

When the rubber hits the board in the next generation of wireless and consumer electronics devices, Varatouch Technologies thinks it will have a pole position. 

The company has developed a technology that could supplant the mouse, and become the de facto "pointer" in everything from computer keyboards to set-top boxes to PDAs. 

Varatouch's namesake pointer has a one-inch circuit board with a specialised rubber-resistor material composed of silicon and carbon. The sensor picks up the movements of a small plastic ball that is placed atop the unit. The ball only needs to be rotated about 15 degrees to cover the range a cursor moves on screen. 

The upcoming convergence of the PC and the TV, and the increasing computing capabilities of PDAs and cellular phones will call for new approaches to interface design, said Michael Rogers, Varatouch's president. 

"The one computer technology that dose not fit in is the mouse," he said. "The model fails, there is nowhere to roll it around. The mouse worked well on the desktop, but with convergence we see integration coming in the home, the car, the person ... you need something new. We have the opportunity to be that something." 

Because of its size and design, Varatouch can be placed on a computer keyboard, on the face of a PDA, or even on a cell phone. The device has just a few parts: a one-inch circuit board, the rolling ball, and the rubber resistor material. Unlike a mouse's ball and rollers, Varatouch's parts don't get grimy. 

Rogers called his sensor "the world's lowest-cost method of converting motion to a useful signal," and said the unit is much cheaper than even the cheapest trackball on the market. 

Douglas Engelbart, inventor of the mouse, said it's inevitable that something better will come along, and won't hold a grudge against anyone who comes up with an invention that supplants his own. 

But, he added, the real challenge is to come up with a computer interface that fits people's working environments not an interface that forces people to adopt an environment. 

Any innovation has to fit with everyone's environment, rather than thinking of how people in ten years will use it," said Engelbart, who founded the Bootstrap Institute. "Before people start talking about how much they don't want to learn to do something different, they should learn what the payoff will be if they do. Our computer interface hasn't had that experience."

Cleaner Converter 

Converter kit allows diesel engines to run on natural gas. (CNN) For decades, fuel-efficient and mechanically simple diesel engines have powered heavy-duty vehicles and machines around the world. They have also been pumping out major pollutants. 

A Canadian company called Westport Innovations hopes to sell diesel engine users on a conversion kit, which enables the same engines to run on natural gas. 

The company projects that it will eventually capture almost a third of the $70 billion global diesel engine market, as nations turn to new technology to meet more stringent clean-air standards. 

"At the moment, we have a very big atmospheric pollution concern, so we feel we have a very good product to step into an existing market on a short-term basis," said Patric Ouelette, chief scientist at Westport Innovations.

Westport said its patented method converts a diesel-burning engine into one that burns almost all natural gas, after using just enough diesel to start the combustion cycle. 

The conversion kit contains injectors capable of handling both diesel fuel and natural gas, as well as other components that store the natural gas at the high pressure necessary for efficient burning. 

Westport said a converted engine emits half the pollution a conventional diesel engine does. The company also says natural gas is about 30 percent cheaper than diesel fuel, so bus and truck companies can recoup the cost of each $20,000 conversion kit within a few years. 

One bus with a converted diesel engine is already shuttling college students around Berkeley, California. 

Subaru to see 'First Light'

The National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ) announced the completion of one of the world's largest monolithic optical-infrared mirrors, with a physical diameter of 8.3 meters (27 feet). The mirror is destined for the NAOJ Subaru Telescope under construction atop Mauna Kea, Hawaii. The SUBARU telescope will see first-light early in 1999 and will be ready for routine research starting in the year 2000.

The engineering team of NAOJ, MELCO (Mitsubishi Electric Corporation), and CBS carried out intensive measurements to verify the surface figure of the primary mirror while it was mounted on its computer controlled support system manufactured by MELCO. 

They confirmed that the mean residual rms surface error can be reduced to as small as 12 nanometres* over an entire surface of 8.2 metres in diameter, making this the most accurate mirror of such size ever produced.

(* 1 nanometre or "nm" = ~0.00000004 inches) 

To help understand this achievement, imagine enlarging the 8.2m surface to 82 km (51 miles), which is about the size of the Big Island of Hawaii. The mean residual error of 12 nm would then correspond to the task of smoothing out the landscape to follow a precisely specified curve with no hills or valleys (on average) taller or deeper than 0.12 mm (0.005"), the thickness of an ordinary sheet of paper! This tremendous achievement is the outcome of combining large mirror fabrication expertise found in the United States with Japanese expertise in making sophisticated control systems. 

The Subaru Telescope project has now successfully completed its most difficult and important phase. At the summit, the mirror received a thin coating of pure aluminum to make it highly reflective and finally attached to the telescope's mechanical structure. 

Tests to evaluate the telescope's performance followed. Scientists are planning to obtain their first scientifically important images (i.e.- "First Light") at the end of January. 

By the early 2lst century, about ten 8-metre class telescopes like WMKT, VLT, and Gemini will exist in the world... SUBARU Telescope will be among these leaders in observational astronomy, providing us with a new picture of the universe and possibly even reshape our foundations of basic physics.

There are already several large observatories in which many countries are taking part.

Mauna Kea Observatories are quickly becoming the world's largest international center for astronomy.

Facts and Data:

1. Subaru Primary Mirror Size and Specifications
Constructed from Corning Ultra Low Expansion Glass (ULE)... 
Thermal Expansion Coefficient... less than 10 parts per billion per deg Celsius. 
Physical Size... 
Diameter: 8.3m (27'), with a central hole 1.2 m (4') in diameter 
Thickness: 20cm (8") 
Weight: 22.8 metric tons 
Effective Mirror Surface: 8.2m diameter 
Focal Length: 15 m (49')
Surface error (root mean square) ... 12 nm after 32 mode active correction of residual deformation
Strehl Ratio*... 0.916 at 500 nm wavelength 
* Strehl Ratio is a measure describing the deterioration due to the surface error. Ideal value is 1.0. The achieved value of 0.916 is outstanding for visual wavelengths.
The 80 % encircled energy**... 0.04 arcsec at 500 nm wavelength 
** This means that 80 % of visual photons collected by this primary mirror would fall onto a tiny spot that corresponds to 0.04 arcsec on the sky (about 0.00002 times the apparent diameter of the full Moon). 

International Chamber chief says resist protectionist pressures

The incoming President of the International Chamber of Commerce, the world business organization, called on governments to resist protectionist pressures generated by the current harsh economic climate in many parts of the world, says a press release from Paris.

In a statement on assuming the ICC presidency, Adnan Kassar, a prominent Lebanese banker, said protectionism was one of the biggest dangers facing the world economy in 1999.

"The lesson of history is that such tendencies must not only be resisted but that when they appear governments should strive with renewed vigour to open markets and further strengthen the rules-based multilateral trading system," the news release added.

Mr. Kassar, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Fransabank Group, said liberalization of international trade and investment was the surest way to secure economic growth, more jobs and prosperity for all nations. Further progress in freeing up markets would create business confidence. "Such a policy will go a long way towards restoring growth and stability."

Mr. Kassar said one of the main objectives of his two-year presidency would be to mobilize the worldwide influence of ICC to ensure that developing countries are not left on the margins of the global economy.

The new President has been an active member of ICC since the early 1970s and is a leading figure in the chamber of commerce movement in the Arab world. He is Chairman of the General Union of Chambers of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture for the Arab countries. 

Mr. Kassar takes over as head of ICC from Helmut O. Maucher, Chairman of Nestle S. A. Mr Maucher remains a member of the ICC Presidency. The new Vice-president is Richard D. McCormick, Chairman of the telecommunications and data networking company, US West.

A new order takes over at Lanka Bell

After over a year in operation, Lanka Bell is now on a rapid program of localization of staff. At a recent cocktail, 22 expatriate staff, mostly personnel from service partner GTE Corporation, were bid farewell. They have now been replaced by highly experienced, top level local telecommunications specialists, says a company release.

Speaking on the occasion, Vijendra Watson, Managing Director of Lanka Bell, thanked the expatriate staff for their contribution towards the success of Lanka Bell and for having trained and prepared competent local talent to take on the challenges ahead.

Mr. Watson also said that this program would continue until the company is substantially localized. He added that Lanka Bell's nearly 500 competent and dedicated staff are capable of continuing to give customers a high level of service.

Lanka Bell, currently certified by BOI as the largest investor in Sri Lanka, is determined to be the most advanced and efficient telecommunications network in Sri Lanka and accordingly will continue to invest further funds towards the planned expansion programmes, Mr. Watson added.

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