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Businessweek Archives

Couch Potatoes Get Their Mouse

Bits & Bytes


ONE OF THE KEY OBSTACLES to the convergence of the personal computer and consumer-electronics gear is control. Wired keyboards and computer mice are O.K. for PCs, which are designed to be used at arm's length. But consumer devices such as TVs reign in the family room, where many people just want to sit back and enjoy--clicking through the channels with the remote control. Now, a small company in Camarillo, Calif., has come up with a compromise.

In May, Interlink Electronics Inc. will make available to computer-equipment makers and consumer-electronics giants a new handheld remote-control unit, called the Interactive Remote Control (IRC). It looks and functions like an ordinary infrared TV remote control. But to carry out cursor commands, such as moving an onscreen pointer to the icon for the latest hot spot on the World Wide Web, the IRC makes use of a so-called force-sensing resistor--the same component used in many notebook computers. Clicking is accomplished by pulling a trigger on the bottom of the IRC. Interlink officials say several companies already are in talks to use the device in their forthcoming products.EDITED BY IRA SAGER By Paul EngReturn to top

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IT'S A RARE OCCASION WHEN a simple invention or product turns into a multimillion-dollar success story. Take Post-It notes, those little paper message pads that office workers use to stick notes on contracts and faxes. Hard to imagine that adding non-marring glue to one side of the message paper would make it an office-supply mainstay for 3M over the last 15 years. Now, the company, based in St. Paul, Minn., is hoping a paperless version of Post-Its will be just as popular.

Post-It Software Notes, a $19.95 program for Windows 3.1, Windows 95, and the Mac operating system, puts a virtual Post-It notes dispenser on the computer desktop. Workers merely click on the pad and a single "sheet" is torn off that can be used to post quick notes. The software even allows users to set alarms for each note--say, a reminder for a lunch date--and can work with such E-mail programs as cc:Mail or Microsoft Mail. 3M offers trial software at its Web site: BY IRA SAGER By Paul EngReturn to top


WITH THE CLICK OF A MOUSE, YOU CAN GET ALMOST anywhere on the Information Superhighway. Trouble is, some places may not be appropriate for everyone. On Apr. 2, Livingston Enterprises Inc. in Pleasanton, Calif., a manufacturer of networking equipment, will unveil a new technology called ChoiceNet that gives Internet service providers a way to filter out naughty pictures and other unwanted sites. Up to now, individual personal-computer owners have had to install software such as a $49.95 program from SurfWatch Software Inc. and pay $5.95 a month for updates while the Net booms. ChoiceNet is instead installed on the server, not on PCs.

That offers several advantages: The filtering is less expensive, and it can be customized instantly. Filters can be set up to allow access only to specific sites--not simply to block access to known ones. Livingston will include ChoiceNet free with its networking gear, in hopes of selling more hardware. But the edge may be short-lived: SurfWatch plans a free upgrade that allows some customization and a server-based filter.EDITED BY IRA SAGER By Robert D. HofReturn to top

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