News Bits: Panasonic Makes Safe Battery, Hotel Wi-Fi is Hit or Miss, Vista an OS X Knockoff?

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Matsushita develops safer laptop battery


Better known as Panasonic, Matsushita announced Monday that it has developed a safer notebook battery based on lithium ion technology. The company said they began shipping the battery in April, and it is ready for mass production.

To prevent overheating, a heat-resistant insulator has been added to the battery cell. A normal Li-ion battery has only a thin separator, which can be punctured by a short circuit and can lead to fires and explosions. The heat-resistant insulator Matsushita has put into their batteries prevents such occurences from happening, even if there is a short circuit.

Matsushita put extra efforts into making certain that these batteries are not contaminated. They said in a statement: "MBI has taken measures to prevent lithium-ion batteries from contaminating with electrically conductive materials by eliminating foreign substances from battery materials and creating a clean environment in the battery factory."

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Hotel Wi-Fi service is hit or miss

The number one priority for many travelers is getting consistent, reliable Internet access at a hotel, without regard to the connection type or the cost. Complaints vary, from weak or no signal strength, too slow of a download speed, or incorrect security settings. As for troubleshooting these problems, most hotels provide an 800 number to the hotel’s Internet service provider, which doesn’t always go smoothly.

Will Allen III, a hotel goer, is quoted as saying, "We can’t stay at a hotel unless the Internet works. It’s like oxygen–we have to have it." He also says that wireless in hotels is simply not reliable enough yet, and he prefers wired connections. One issue causing unreliable access is that often, hotels use many different ISPs. Hilton Hotels Corporation is doing their best to bring the situation under control by bringing the management and customer support parts of its Internet service in-house. The program is called Stay Connected @ Hilton. According to the vice president of broadband services at Hilton, John Flack, the program was designed to make it easier for customers to get connected.

Vice president for operations at Ritz-Carlton, Brian Gullbrants, said that they are moving away from relying on a single ‘technology butler,’ and is training most on-site employees to be able to answer basic connectivity questions. Gullbrants said, "You don’t have to be a tech expert to figure it out, but you have to understand how our system works." Complicated problems are handled by the technology staff.

Additional problems contributing to unreliable wireless connections include building materials – concrete, steel, and glass can all block wireless signals – an insufficient number of IP addresses, and not enough antennas to handle the increasing bandwidth traffic.

Travelers do not want to worry about getting reliable Internet service. One hotel goer said, "If I’m staying in a Tier 1 hotel, I should expect a Tier 1 experience. I might be working in my hotel for 12 to 14 hours one day. To me, that hotel is an extension of my office–it’s not just a place to sleep and shower."

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Vista just a ripoff of Mac OS X?

David Pogue, a tech columnist for the New York Times, implies that Windows Vista is a ripoff of Mac OS X and Microsoft is a copy machine. It should be noted that this author enjoys being satirical and humorous. He posted a video, which does show some similarities between Vista and OS X.

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Mozilla Firefox update now available

December 18th – Mozilla today released the first update to its Firefox 2.0 browser, It is expected to be available sometime today. There are no details available as to what is fixed in the update, although there is a high probability that a fix for the password flaw found last month will be included.

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Production cost of Optimus keyboard is over $1,000

The upcoming Optimus 103 keyboard has higher than expected production costs. Art Lebedev wrote in the Optimus blog that finding displays small enough to fit the individual keys is harder and more expensive than anticipated. Each of the displays for the 103 keys costs about $10, which puts the cost of the displays alone over $1,000. The previous estimate for one OLED key was $1. Other company expenses include the $100,000 in tooling costs necessary to produce the displays. The displays are expected to be available in Spring in sample numbers.

Production of the Optimus keyboard is still ongoing. The most recent change to the keyboard includes an ambient light sensor to automatically adjust the brightness of the keys.

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