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Cybernaut

Green thumbing it

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Technically the first day of spring was March 21, but take a look at weather reports across the country and it’s safe to say that the season is already a month late. If and when the cloud cover does break in Whistler, it will be time to take care of a little yard work.

The easiest thing to do would be to hire a professional landscaper to take care of your lawns and gardens, but some people prefer to get their hands and rest of their bodies dirty and do it themselves – damn the neck pains, back spasms, cuts and scrapes.

As always, the Web can help you do things right.

The first place to stop is the Resort Municipality of Whistler offices on Blackcomb Way, where the parks department has a stack of landscaping documents that will ensure that you aren’t using banned pesticides or attracting bears to your neighbourhood. The documents can also help you decide what kinds of plants grow best in our unique mountain environment.

The next site to visit is Garden.org, the home of the U.S.-based National Gardening Association. All off the content is free, and the information is comprehensive. You can find out how to grow almost any plant the natural way, how to group different species of plants for their mutual benefit, and how to take care of backyard pests without chemicals pesticides.

Check the main page for a special section on Mountains and Plants that has information of special interest to Whistler green thumbs, plus references to a number of interesting books.

Like comedy, the secret to a successful garden is timing. GardenWise B.C. (www.gardenwise.bc.ca), a Web site by the B.C. Landscape and Nursery Association has a garden calendar for B.C. residents, suggesting when the best time is to plant and maintain certain species.

The site also has resources to help gardeners select plants, find nurseries, and, if all else fails, hook up with a local landscaper.

In case you’re new to town, or your short-term memory has been wiped out by television, beer and aluminum cookware, Whistler is attempting to adopt socially, economically and environmentally sustainable principles for everything we do – and that includes gardening. To see what environmentally-friendly, sustainable gardening looks like, visit Bountiful Gardens at www.bountifulgardens.org, and www.markw.com/environm.htm.

PS3 gearing up

Last year the home video game market generated more sales revenue than Hollywood, which is saying something when you consider that Hollywood had a pretty good year. In the U.S. alone, video game sales were about $10.3 billion in 2002, up from $9.4 billion the year before (Trendsetters.com) When you factor in the huge markets of Europe and Asia, we’re talking about a hundred billion a year industry.

Those numbers will only increase as the console market continues to thrive – more than 41.9 million consoles were sold around the world in 2002, which means the market for games is continuing to boom.

Of the three major consoles on the market, the Sony Playstation 2 continues to lead the way with an estimated 63 per cent of the hardware marketshare. The Nintendo GameCube is about 21 per cent of the market, and Microsoft’s Xbox continues to gain market share with about 16 per cent.

Far from being complacent, Sony is preparing to extend its lead in the market by taking gaming to another level with the PS3.

Sony recently spent about $1.6 billion on a new plant to build the processors for the PS3, which the company is calling the "Cell". The circuitry widths are about 65 nanometers, compared to the 90 nanometer widths found in the most advanced chips of the day. By narrowing the circuitry widths, Sony will be able to squeeze more transistors onto each Cell, and increase the processing power exponentially.

The Cell boasts a multicore architecture, a revolutionary design that incorporates several stacked processor cores into one unit. The effect is a processor that is thousands of times more powerful than the unique "Emotion Engine" processor in the Playstation 2.

The Cell likely won’t be released until late 2005, although we’ll probably see some Cell demos much earlier than that at consumer expos.

A .Net-tastophe?

It was a minor headline in The Globe and Mail on Monday, but it speaks volumes about the challenge facing Microsoft’s ability to sell businesses and individuals on the .Net Web services concept.

Microsoft introduced .Net three years ago, touting it as revolutionary technology for connecting people, systems and devices. Basically, .Net allows freer communication between programs and hardware devices through XML, or the Extensible Markup Language. XML is a universal language that can be used to communicate across the Internet, or between otherwise unconnected sources, such as cell phones, PDAs and desktops. This common language would allow you to use your computer to send messages to cell phones and you PDA to access servers and home computers.

XML also provides a common language for software programs and servers to communicate with one another through the Web. With so many different technologies and software programs in use, the XML language provides a uniform standard.

It’s a revolutionary concept, no question, but it may be before its time. First of all, it took a while for people to understand what .Net was. Was it software? Was it hardware? How was it different than the current technology?

Three years later, and IT managers are still confused. So confused that Microsoft decided to drop the .Net labels from the launch of Windows Server 2003, a next generation operating system.

"We unfortunately have not been superclear in the past about what .Net is and what .Net isn’t," said Barry Goffe, a group product manager at Microsoft’s server platform division, in a recent Globe and Mail article.

.Net will be built into the architecture of all Microsoft software, but the .Net brand will likely be kept under wraps until the market finally understands the benefits of the technology.

If you’re still in the dark about .Net, visit www.microsoft.com/net/ for a basic explanation of .Net and XML, what it does and why it’s important.