Maybe Ginger is the solution to California's energy crisis

Lots of readers are speculating on what Dean Kamen's new invention might be. Many think he's gotten something called the Stirling engine to work. An external combustion engine, it can consume nearly any energy source and is five times as efficient as the internal combustion engine.

With the threat of California's rolling blackouts weighing heavily on her plans to use hairdryers, electronic massage chairs, coffee machines and other modern conveniences, Randi left town last week to take a spa retreat. "I don't want to rough it, Bobby," she told me.

It was just as well. Most of the San Francisco Bay area lost power on one day and more outages were threatened. Hardworking reporters like me had to rely on the battery power of our laptops and pray that the networks would be up in time to go to press. Perhaps Dean Kamen's new invention could solve this energy crisis.

Kamen's Ginger

Lots of readers are speculating on what Dean Kamen's new invention might be. Popularly known as IT and code-named Ginger, many think he's gotten something called the Stirling engine to work. An external combustion engine, it can consume nearly any energy source and is five times as efficient as the internal combustion engine, radically reducing pollution and dependence on foreign oil.

Others believe that Ginger may be some kind of vehicle. "A Razor [scooter] with a gyroscope," guessed one. The motorised vehicle would rapidly whisk pedestrians over sidewalks, creating a cleaner mode of transportation.

Red means cuts

Insiders say that interactive advertising firm Red Sky planned a second round of layoffs set to happen last week. That day was supposed to be the last for at least 50 people from the company's Houston office, leaving a skeleton crew of just 25 people in HR, IT, customer support and management. Other offices have been put on notice that further reductions may follow.

Hotmail woes

As many readers continue to report ongoing problems with Microsoft's free Hotmail email service, those from the inside confirm that Microsoft has been working hard for the past several months to migrate the Hotmail servers to Windows 2000. Some have reported that the changeover happened last July. Other insiders have said it's still under way and the ratio is maybe 4:1 or 8:1 of Windows 2000 servers to the Free BSD boxes the site had been running.

Apples and oranges

A few Apple Computer loyals are up in arms about a new pricing scheme announced by the personal computer maker. It seems that the bundle pricing for a certain set of products is actually higher than the price for the products when they are purchased separately. "I don't know if Apple people can't add, or they think we can't," says one customer.

Meanwhile, in Florida, phone company and ISP giant Verizon Communications has double-billed 18,000 DSL customers for their service. Perhaps it's time for a recount.

Randi called me from the spa. "I'm in the hot tub now, Bobby, but I can talk only a minute because I'm running late for my massage," she said. I cursed the darkness.

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