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Good news for roamers

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Fast-charging batteries use nanotechnology

Last week Toshiba announced the creation of a new kind of battery, one that uses nanotechnology to charge about 60 times faster than conventional batteries.

If it does what Toshiba says it does, roamers will be able to charge their laptops in about a minute, and their cell phones, digital cameras, digital camcorders, portable music players, PDAs, and a wide range other portable devices in a matter of seconds.

The new technology could also be used to keep hybrid cars fully charged at all times by rapidly converting braking power into stored energy. In turn, that will allow vehicles to run more on batteries and less on fuel.

This is monumental, life-enriching and potentially life-saving technology. Imagine a battery that you could charge with a portable solar cell in a matter of minutes, a car battery that can be topped up almost instantly as the engine idles, or a pacemaker battery that could be charged through the skin in about a second.

Aside from the obvious convenience, these new batteries could remove the final link from the chain that ties people to their desks. Battery life was always the limiting factor to true portability.

According to Toshiba, the nano particles in the negative electrodes allow the batteries to rapidly store lithium ions. The basic design is otherwise similar to a conventional lithium-ion battery, and can be used for the same applications.

Toshiba said it would release the new batteries in 2006, starting with automotive and industrial applications. Consumer electronics will follow shortly afterwards.

Gmail sees Yahoo’s gig, raises one gig

Google is that cagey poker player at the table that isn’t afraid to risk it all to win the pot. In this case the pot is millions of loyal online e-mail customers, and the other players at the table are Yahoo and Microsoft.

Last week Yahoo announced plans to increase online e-mail capacity to a gigabyte for every person, up 400 per cent over the last increase from five to 250 megabytes. That increase came in response to Microsoft’s decision to boost capacity from two to 250 MB this winter, which itself was a response to the launch of Google’s Gmail with one gigabyte last fall.

On Friday, Google upped the stakes once again with plans to double account storage to a full two gigabytes. To put that into perspective, two gigs is enough to hold the equivalent of almost 1,390,000 3.5 inch floppy discs, three CDR disks or one DVD.

Unless you’re sending and receiving a lot of large files, it’s almost too much space – the average e-mail message to my Hotmail account (I’m too lazy to even think of changing right now) is about 25 KB, which means a two gig account from Google would hold approximately 80,000 messages – a little more than I have time to answer or would ever want to sift through.

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