Tech Nous: Health In Hand

Add-on devices for handheld PCs may soon reach epidemic pro-portions, if current trends in the United States are anything to go by (and in the IT world they usually are).

I see the Handspring, an electronic organiser along the same lines as the Palm Pilot, is now available not only with an integrated digital music player and mobile phone, it also has software that allows diabetics to test blood sugar levels and to graph and chart the data produced over time. No doubt diabetics will be itching to get their hands on this new technology.

TheraSense, California-based medical device maker, already has approval from US health regulators to start selling the “FreeStyle Tracker” diabetes management system on Handspring devices. Palm Inc has also entered into an agreement to market mobile services to healthcare workers, in what is seen as an across-the-board push by handheld manufacturers to target the health market and thus boost overall sales.

Let’s face it, handheld or pocket-size computers are such handy little devices to take on the road, and it makes sense to tack-on as many additional functions as possible.

I read story recently of device available in New Zealand that allows pub patrons to conduct personal breathalyser test before they get behind the wheel – now combine that with computing functionality and we’re really cooking!

Speaking of things cooking, if you’re still concerned about the effects of cellphone-emitted radio waves on your health, Hong-Kong company may have the answer.

The Greenphone e688 from Group Sense splits the standard mobile phone into two parts, which are linked wirelessly via Bluetooth technology.

The eFone handset contains the display, speaker and microphone and is used for making calls and typing text messages.

The other half of the phone is called the eBox, which holds the SIM card. This case can be located up to 10 metres away from the handset, so users are exposed to low-powered radio waves instead of those bigger, nastier emissions. So far the manufacturer has only released the Greenphone in various Asian countries – so we may have to go on quietly microwaving our brains for little longer. However, bear in mind that there has yet to be any conclusive link between mobile phones and health hazards.

And finally, speaking of things decidedly unhealthy, I read with dismay that there is now virus that can infect image files on computers. McAfee is calling this little beast W32/Perrun, and while it hasn’t been set loose on the internet yet, it does exist.

Should the virus be spread in the wild, it would appear as an .exe file and infect JPEGs via email and downloads. The first JPEG viewed after the executable file is run will have the virus code attached. The virus would then seek out other JPEG files in the same directory and try to infect them.

We all know how common the JPEG format is for sending images via the internet, so the potential fallout from such virus is huge. The question is, can current anti-virus software scan images and related files without suffering major degradation in performance? Just when you thought it was safe to check your incoming email with confidence, it’s time to rethink your defence peri-meter once again. Is it any wonder that some of the more nervous corporates overseas are currently installing more than one antivirus and anti-spam software program? Their belief is that all security products fail in different ways, so it pays to have back-ups.

Glenn Baker is editor of M-tech. Email: [email protected]

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