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Info Tech

A One-Stop Guide to Gadgets

The latest specialized Web-search service:, launched on Nov. 19 as a way to find, buy, and troubleshoot the more than 40,000 consumer-electronics products introduced each year.

Using computer algorithms, Retrevo trolls the Net for expert and user reviews, blogs, and manufacturer information on an item. Consumers can see at a glance the highest, average, and lowest price and how they compare. A digital troubleshooter sorts through manuals and technical support pages to solve simple problems. Free to consumers, Retrevo has deals to share revenues in gadget sales from the site, and hopes to line up advertising.

Printing Chips on the Cheap

A Silicon Valley startup says it has refined a process that uses regular printing-press technology to create low-power chips. Kovio's Nov. 13 announcement could represent a step forward in developing cheap, mass-produced radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags.

Sunnyvale (Calif.)-based Kovio says it will use a process that could drop the price of the tiny radio chips, which help companies keep track of products they ship, from 15 cents per tag to 5 cents by late 2008. Kovio uses long-established graphics printing techniques, but instead of color inks it sprays what it calls "silicon ink"--consisting of silicon electronics and thin-film transistors--onto stainless steel foil that is paired with a tiny radio antenna. Silicon ink devices can be made using cheaper equipment than that used to make regular chips.

How Big Wireless Could Get Short-Circuited

While talk of the FCC's January airwaves auction has focused on Google's (GOOG) battle with the phone companies, smaller outfits also are weighing bids. If any of them succeed in biting off bits of spectrum, they could create the first nationwide networks dedicated to providing only wholesale wireless services. Outfits like Frontline and Mobile Satellite Ventures could resell airwaves to those wanting a sliver for things like gadgets that communicate with each other. Offering lower prices than cell operators, they may also give relief to regional wireless telcos that now must sign roaming deals with phone giants.

Hollywood Clicks and a Cast Appears

Forget cattle calls. Hollywood now goes online to cast many movies and TV shows thanks to a MySpace for talent agents called Cast It Systems. At $4,000 for a feature film and $2,000 for a TV pilot, most Hollywood studios and two of the Big Four TV networks use the password-protected site to create pages devoted to hot projects. Barry Josephson, producer of the Walt Disney (DIS) film Enchanted, approved director Kevin Lima's choice of Amy Adams for the lead role of Princess Giselle after seeing an online video of her reading a script. Created by film producer Eric Hayes and dot-com entrepreneur Chris Gantos, Cast It now is moving on to Broadway plays and ad spots.

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