TECHNOFILE

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The Independent Culture
OBJECT LESSON

TIGER SPORTS FEEL GOLF GAME

LIFE ISN'T EVERYTHING

Bring together Irish, Portuguese and British digital artists, as Dublin's Arthouse multimedia centre has done in the Kicstart area of its website, and what themes emerge? Death, living wills and Elvis.

TECHNOTIP

Choosing a modem and an Internet connection is very simple: get the fastest you can. For most of us this means a 56k modem, and an Internet provider that offers access at matching speeds. Up to a few months ago, the spread of 56k modems was hampered by the fact that they came in two flavours, known as "X2" and "K56 flex". This irritated the Internet service providers, which had to decide whether to cater for one, both or neither. Then the International Telecommunications Union agreed a new standard, called V90. Modems configured to this specification are now beginning to reach the dealers, but you will need to check that your Internet provider also supports the standard. If you're thinking of buying a modem in one of the older flavours, make sure it can be upgraded to V90 easily and at no extra charge. The other thing that has held back 56k is that you'll be lucky to connect at 56,000 kilobytes per second. That kind of speed is pushing the limits of conventional phone lines, and the quality of your own particular phone line may affect performance. But as long as you don't take the name literally, you should be happy with the improvement over 28.8 or 33.6 connections. I've been using a Global Village TelePort 56 (pounds 186) with a Pipex Dial account, and I can rely on the pair to connect at 44,000kbps, except on busy afternoons. Believe me, it makes life on line an awful lot easier than it used to be.

3Com US Robotics have launched a trio of V90 modems in Britain, all of them for Windows. The basic 56K Voice Fax model, at pounds 119, can be used as a speakerphone. The 56K Message Modem (pounds 179) and the pounds 199 Professional Message Modem (pictured below) can pick up voice mail and faxes while your computer is switched off.

LAST YEAR'S MODEL

The Redundant Technology Initiative wants to save your old computer for art. Some 2,700 computers are junked in Britain every day, many of them after a twilight phase cluttering up storerooms until they are indisputably obsolete. If the RTI catches on, machines like these will instead enjoy a second lease of life as artists' tools, like old racehorses put out to stud. "Artists are the ideal people to experiment with redundant technology," co-ordinator James Wallbank observes on the RTI website. "While the rest of us may find that old computers won't do the tasks we want them to, artists can investigate playfully and be creative with what the machines can do, rather than being frustrated by what they can't." Wallbank pointedly adds that "there's been a lot of media attention given to artworks that use the newest, most expensive computers. But many of these artworks seem less like works of art than like ads for the latest technology."

After using 200 redundant computers in an installation called Redundant Array at Sheffield's Lovebytes digital arts festival in April, the RTI's activists will spend Manchester's "Digital Summer" scavenging the city's unwanted hardware. All working computers are welcome, even 086s, or Amigas such as the one used by Simon Norris, an artist associated with RTI. Though they are based in Sheffield, they are offering to collect when they are in your area (e-mail them via the website, or phone 0114 2495522). Or buy the RTI Skip Raider T-shirt, which, like their website, comes in Default Grey.

HOKUS POKUS PANCASILA

The Pink Panther, for it is he, finds himself in a more Gothic setting than usual in Hokus Pokus Pink (Anglia, Windows, pounds 19.99). Launching himself into a new career as an encyclopaedia salescat, he encounters a wizard, a sorcerer, and a little girl who has been turned into a giant wombat. Pretty soon he, and the child of between eight and 12 at the keyboard, are deep in the world of edutainment, with background info for an eclectic series of trips to the Acropolis, the Dead Sea, Kenya, Siberia and Indonesia. Although they could certainly do with some better research backup on the latter, the entry for which seems to have been compiled by the same CIA team that was supposed to be monitoring Indian nuclear installations.

Whoever it was, they apparently had ample assistance from the Indonesian embassy. "The country has long been absorbing foreign cultures and influences into the native ways of life," says the Panther's book. "This co-operative harmony is essential to the Indonesians." The mobs who recently carried out pogroms against the ethnic Chinese evidently didn't agree. We also learn that President Suharto's Pancasila ideology is based on belief in God, humanitarianism, nationalism, democracy and social justice. After 30 years, you'd think he would have managed more than two out of five.

DRAWN CHORUS

Louise Lawler's installation at the Stadiumweb art site utters the names of well-known artists in the style of bird calls. "Gilbert and George", for example, sound a bit like a parrot squawking "Who's a pretty boy?" The effect is like a tropical aviary, or a private view.

WORLD WIDE WEB

YOU'LL FIND LINKS TO ALL THE WEBSITES MENTIONED IN TECHNOFILE ON ITS HOMEPAGES AT: http://www.poptel.org.uk/technofile

In a move towards a classless society, electronics firm Tiger has a solution to the problem of being turned down for membership at your local swanky golf club. Now you can practise your stroke in the privacy of your living-room and not worry about smashing the furniture. It's a short, stubby golf club, with a built-in LCD screen which depicts the green, the ball, and the wind conditions. But to play, you actually have to swing the club as though you were on the green and the timing and violence of your swing determines the stroke. There's a wide range of clubs and course conditions to choose from, and even a faintly unsatisfying sound meant to imitate that of the club striking the ball, followed by a more enjoyable range of noises, including the ball bouncing effortlessly into the cup (ensued by appreciative applause) and the cry of "Fore" which tells you you've gone too far. The Feel Golf Game aimed at kids, but it's very good fun once you get used to it. And, at pounds 19.99, it's much cheaper than club membership, although you don't get to schmooze the managing director. Available nationwide. David Phelan

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