Saturday, February 23, 2008

Test-drive Vista from your current PC, free

A blog post at Tech Republic provides links to two ways to try Windows Vista for free. The simplest is to try a business version online at the Windows Vista Test Drive site. This runs in a browser window, after you install the (ActiveX) Virtual Server VRMC Advanced Control. Of course, it doesn't tell you anything about Vista's performance.

The better but more cumbersome alternative is to install Vista in a "virtual PC" on your hard drive, where it won't affect the rest of the stuff you do. As Greg Shultz points out: "Microsoft has created a 30-day evaluation VHD (Virtual Hard Drive) containing Windows Vista Enterprise Edition that you can download and load into either Microsoft Virtual PC or Microsoft Virtual Server."

The drawbacks are disk space and time:

Besides a Microsoft Virtual product, both of which are free as well, you'll need to have at least 10 GB of free hard disk space and at least 2 GB of RAM. You also have to have a very fast Internet connection or a bit of time on your hands as the Vista Enterprise VHD is comprised of three very large files -- two 700MB files and one 160MB file.

The sizes make it easy to burn them to CD.

Once you've done the download, you have to do a real Vista installation, which generally takes half an hour.

The test drives are aimed at business users rather than home users, but anyone can have a go.


Thursday, February 21, 2008

Foods That Fight Colds

Whether you're walking around with a box of tissues or curled up in bed with aches and the shivers, what you feed your cold or flu can speed your recovery. Here's how to maximize your body's virus-busting powers.

If you instinctively sip cup after cup of tea with honey and lemon when you're under the weather, your body knows exactly what it's doing. While any hot liquid will help loosen clogged nasal passages and sooth sore throats, hot tea also doses you with virus-fighting, inflammation-relieving antioxidants. (In fact, people who drank five cups of black tea a day for two weeks produced 10 times more interferon--proteins that fight viruses--than those who drank instant coffee. For tea lovers, five cups is about three mugs full--not that much.)

As for the honey (the darker, the better), it's also thick with protective antioxidants. And a big squeeze of lemon in every mugful adds a little extra vitamin C to your virus-fighting kit, plus the tartness stimulates saliva, which makes swallowing easier.

Cold researchers keep trying to figure out why chicken soup does a sick body good. One finding: cysteine, an amino acid that's released by cooked chicken. It's chemically similar to a bronchitis drug, acetylcysteine, and it works with other soup ingredients to reduce inflammation. Salty broth also helps thin mucus.

Chicken soup helps even more if you rev it up with spices: garlic, which has a well-earned reputation for squelching infection, and hot red pepper, which contains capsaicin, a powerful decongestant that intensifies the soup's sinus-clearing effects. Try this tried-and-true recipe.

Smooth, healthy, comforting--no wonder lots of sickies crave hot cereal or cool yogurt. Again, your body knows what it's doing. Oatmeal (like other whole-grain cereals) delivers three nutrients known to support your immune system: selenium, zinc, and beta-glucan. Yogurt with active cultures (aka probiotics or live healthy bacteria) helps fend off colds in the first place. One, Lactobacillus reuteri (found in Stonyfield Farm yogurt), seems to be especially protective.

Top your oatmeal or yogurt with strawberries, nuts, and seeds. You'll get a vitamin C boost from the berries and immunity-enhancement from the vitamin E, zinc, and selenium in the nuts and seeds. Extra selenium may be extra important if you have the flu since it seems to ward off lung inflammation.

Alternatively, stir lots of cinnamon into oatmeal or yogurt--it smells and tastes wonderful, and can help reduce fever, relieve pain, and kill germs. If nausea is adding to your misery, add a little ginger too, fresh or powdered. It's a proven tummy tamer and may take antibacterial action against any bad bugs in your respiratory tract.

Once your cold or flu is over (whew), try keeping up some of these habits, especially drinking plenty of antioxidant-packed tea. Not only could it help prevent another bout but getting the right amount of antioxidants through diet or supplements can make your RealAge 6 years younger.


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Bedtime Snacks that Help You Sleep

One of the best natural sedatives is tryptophan, an amino acid component of many plant and animal proteins.

Tryptophan is one of the ingredients necessary for the body to make serotonin, the neurotransmitter best known for creating feelings of calm, and for making you sleepy.

However, the trick is to combine foods that have some tryptophan with ample carbohydrate. That’s because in order for insomnia-busting tryptophan to work, it has to make its way to the brain.

Unfortunately, all amino acids compete for transport to the brain. When you add carbs, they cause the release of insulin, which takes the competing amino acids and incorporates them into muscle…but leaves tryptophan alone, so it can make its way to the brain, be converted to serotonin, and cause sleepiness.

Serotonin-producing bedtime snacks should be no more than 200 calories and should be eaten at least 30 minutes prior to bed.

Here are a few great ideas:

Bedtime Snacks for Adults

--6-8 oz container of non-fat, flavored yogurt topped with 2 tablespoons low-fat granola cereal
--Sliced apple with 1-2 teaspoons natural peanut butter
--3 cups low-fat popcorn – sprinkled with optional 2 tablespoons parmesan cheese

Bedtime Snacks for Teens

--One cup healthy cereal with skim milk
--Low-fat granola bar
--Scoop of vanilla or strawberry low-fat ice cream

Bedtime Snacks for Children

--1/2 cup low-fat vanilla pudding

--1/2 banana with 1-2 teaspoons peanut butter

--One cup skim milk with a bunch of grapes (or other fruit)


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

TEA: The Elixir of Life

Delicious, low-calorie, and brimming with antioxidants, tea is quickly becoming the most commonly consumed beverage worldwide, after water. Even in the U.S., its popularity is rapidly growing. And why not? With the health benefits you stand to gain, you, too, will want to drink up.

Soak Up the Health Benefits
It is no wonder that tea is the beverage most commonly enjoyed by centenarians around the world. Tea is full of powerful antioxidants that improve concentration, gently boost energy, and make people happier. The free radical-inhibiting property of tea is more potent than that of vitamin E, and tea is a proven preventive and treatment for atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). The polyphenols in tea, especially the catechins, are powerful antioxidants that help ward off diabetes and cancer.

To get the most health from your tea, brew it fresh from tea bags or loose leaves and herbs, as instant and bottled teas contain less active compounds. Let the tea steep for three to five minutes to extract the most beneficial compounds. Drink to your health!

Cut the Morning Coffee
For many people, the first thing they reach for in the morning is coffee. Although it may initially give you a jolt, coffee actually depletes your vital essence, "borrowing" energy that you didn't have in the first place.

Caffeine acts as a central nervous system stimulant. It causes you to experience stress, anxiety, a racing mind, and even insomnia, working against your attempts to relax the body and calm the mind. A healthier alternative to coffee is herbal tea. On average, a cup of black tea contains about one third of the caffeine you would get from the same cup of coffee. Green tea contains about one sixth of that amount.

Of course, caffeine content will vary depending on the particular tea and the brewing time. One way to naturally decaffeinate your tea is to steep for 45 seconds, pour out the liquid but keep the tea leaves, then add fresh boiling water and let it steep for 3-5 minutes or longer to allow the beneficial polyphenols to be extracted from the tea.

Slim Down with Tea
As a weight loss tool, tea is a wonderfully cleansing way to flush the system, replace fluids - and pump the body full of powerful antioxidants at the same time. Aside from the health benefits, tea is a zero-calorie beverage, making it your best choice for weight loss. Pass on the diet soda, loaded with sugar and bone-weakening bubbles, and go for tea.

It is best to drink tea unsweetened and without milk, which can minimize some of the health benefits. To sweeten the tea without the extra calories, forgo the sugar and try instead honey, stevia products, or a stick of cinnamon.

The Healthy Varieties of Herbal Teas
Aromatic and chock full of amazing health benefits, herbal teas are made from various leaves, roots, bark, or flowers. Here are just a few:

  • Ginger: Soothes the digestive system and keeps your energy fired up
  • Chamomile: Settles the stomach and is calming and soothing for the nervous system
  • Peppermint: Increases healthy gastric secretions, relaxes the intestines, and settles the stomach
  • Dandelion: Detoxifies and supports healthy liver functions
  • Valerian: A natural herbal substitute for sleeping pills

You can combine these herbs in any combination according to your taste and health preferences. Among my patients, an incredibly popular herbal tea is Internal Cleanse Tea, which is specially combined to detoxify, calm nerves, clear the mind, balance emotions, and ease digestion. This tea formula is available online at

I hope you reap the powerful health benefits of tea! I invite you to visit often and share your own personal health and longevity tips with me.

May you stay healthy, live long, and live happy!

-Dr. Mao


Monday, February 18, 2008

Remove useless files from several applications with CCleaner

CCleaner is a freeware system optimization and privacy tool. It removes unused files from your system - allowing Windows to run faster and freeing up valuable hard disk space. It also cleans traces of your online activities such as your Internet history.

Some cleaners just scrub off your browser cache temporary files folder but with CCleaner it goes further. It also cleans temporary files from common third-party applications. CCleaner cleans the following programs: Adobe products (Flash Player, Photoshop, and Reader to name a few), Ad-Aware SE, eMule, Firefox, Google Toolbar, Kazaa, Microsoft Office, Nero, Norton Antivirus, OpenOffice, Real Player, WinAce, Windows Media Player, WinRAR, WinZip, and Google, Windows Live, and Yahoo Toolbars.

It has an advanced features to remove unused and old entries, including File Extensions, ActiveX Controls, ClassIDs, ProgIDs, Uninstallers, Shared DLLs, Fonts, Help Files, Application Paths, Icons, Invalid Shortcuts and more... also comes with a comprehensive backup feature and it is spyware free!!!

Download CCleaner Here:

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Cool Doggy!

What a cute little basset doing some beat boxing. I really love dogs, and cats too! Enjoy the Video!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

LOST: Via Domus -- Video Game

Lost: Via Domus is a video game based on the ABC television series Lost. It is to be released for the PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3 26th February 2008. The game was officially unveiled at Comic-Con 2007.

A completely different Lost game was released for mobile phones on January 16, 2007 and fifth-generation iPods on May 23, 2007. It is not related to Via Domus, nor created by the same developer.


The player is cast as a previously unseen survivor, Elliott, a photojournalist with amnesia. Gameplay will involve Resident Evil-style fetch quests and puzzle solving. Flashbacks will be an integral part of the storyline. The story follows the first two seasons of the show. The player explores locations seen in the show, such as the caves, the beach camp, the territory belonging to The Others and the Swan Station. The player will also interact with some of the major characters of the television show; Sawyer, Jack, Kate, Sayid, Michael and Walt. Screen caps and images released so far to the media shows Elliot having to avoid the "Smoke Monster" and the Black Rock. Trading with other survivors and taking photos with a camera are also part of the gameplay.

The game will be split up into seven "episodes". Each episode was plotted by the show's executive producers, Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse.[5] The Third Season DVD bonus disk contains a feature about the game's development, and also reveals that Ben and Juliet will be in the game. It has been confirmed that the actors for Ben Linus (Michael Emerson), Mikhail Bakunin (Andrew Divoff), Sun-Hwa Kwon (Yunjin Kim), Desmond Hume (Henry Ian Cusick), Claire Littleton (Emilie de Ravin), and Tom (M. C. Gainey) all provided voice work for the game, while the rest of the major characters are provided by stand-ins.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Which iPod Should You Buy?

Planning to buy an iPod? but can't decide which among the various models? this may help solve your problem and help you decide..

The very impressive Apple iPod lineup has dominated the digital music player market ever since the first iPod hit the streets in 2001. And that lead continues as Apple keeps on adding more impressive features and storage space to their iPod models while maintaining the thin and sleek look.

If you are planning to purchase a new iPod, you have at least four options to choose from – the inexpensive but screenless iPod shuffle, the new iPod Nano that also plays video, the iPod Classic that offers huge storage space or the latest iPod touch which is like the iPhone minus the phone and camera.

Music and video fans never had it so good but obviously, more choices can sometimes lead to confusion.

The iPod shuffle is ideal when you want to gift someone an iPod but do not have a big budget. The shuffle is small and wearable so you can easily clip it to your sleeve or the coin pocket of your trousers - a perfect choice for joggers or people who frequent the gym. With 1GB of storage, iPod shuffle weighs just around 15g.

The new iPod Nano, one of the best sellers, can now play video on their 2” colored screen in addition to photo slideshows and music. With the recent update, Nano models have become slightly shorter and wider.

The Cover Flow feature lets you flip through your music album covers visually through the Click Wheel. Nano is available in 4GB and 8GB models and weighs around 50g.

iPod Classic is much like the iPod Nano except for the storage size – Classic comes in 80GB and 160GB variants enough to store even your full length high resolution DVD movies. The screen size is slightly bigger at 2.5” but they weigh around 150g which is like 3x that of a Nano.

What could become the object of everyone’s envy is the new and very gorgeous iPod Touch. With a large 3.5” display and touch screen QWERTY keyboard, this is the most innovative iPod ever. The inbuilt Wi-Fi and Safari Browser in iPod Touch lets you surf the web in any hotspot.

Finally, you have the iPod Touch. Like any other iPod to play music, videos or photo slideshows. Weighing just 120g, iPod Touch is available in 8GB and 16GB variants.

With so many choices, which iPod would you now go for? If the budget is small, Shuffle seems like a good choice though you’ll miss the visual navigation. If you want to carry all your multimedia content wherever you go, Classic is recommended but for the rest of us, iPod Nano is close to perfect though I am not so big a fan of the new Nano shape.

(for pictures and some facts)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Apple releases Mac OS X 10.5.2

Apple released Mac OS X 10.5.2 ,an update that addresses several common complaints regarding some new Leopard features, while also adding new features and fixing numerous bugs.

Among the major changes is an update to Stacks, the feature of OS X's Dock that allows quick access to items within folders. In 10.5.2, users can view any folder in the Dock as either a Folder or a Stack, and view content as either a Fan, Grid, or List. Pre-Leopard versions of Mac OS X provided only a List view; previous versions of Leopard provided either a Fan or Grid view based on the number of items in a Stack.

Another widely criticized feature of Leopard was the addition of a translucent menu bar and menu items; the 10.5.2 update adds an option to the Desktop & Screen Saver preference pane to turn translucency off. Menu items are also less translucent (regardless of how you set the menu bar preference), making them more readable.

An addition to Apple's Time Machine backup feature, which was introduced in Leopard, provides a menu bar item for accessing Time Machine features. In addition, the update addresses a bug that would prevent some external drives from being recognized by Time Machine.

Users of newer digital cameras will want to note that this update adds RAW support for several cameras, which have been added to Apple's complete list of Leopard-compatible RAW formats.

This update also improves several programs bundled with Mac OS X. iCal, Apple's calendar program, now accurately reflects responses to recurring meetings and fixing a problem in which a meeting may have remained on the calendar after being cancelled. Apple's iChat instant-messaging client is no longer disturbed by Time Machine when calculating idle times, offers improved AIM 6 video compatibility, and has had numerous other bugs squashed. The update to Apple's Mail application fixes several bugs, improves the accuracy of Data Detectors, and fixes an issue that may have prevented RSS feeds from being delivered in Mail. Mail also now automatically disables version 1.1.2 and earlier of the unsupported GrowlMail plug-in, which according to Apple was causing compatibility "issues."

According to Apple's detailed release notes, this update also addresses "connection reliability and stability" on AirPort Networks; improves performance of some Apple Dashboard widgets while fixing a buggy interaction between Dashboard and Parental Controls; adds Back to My Mac support for more third-party routers; adds iSync support for two Samsung phones; improves Parental Controls stability and fixes several bugs; improves PDF scrolling in Preview; fixes several printing bugs; improves the accuracy of the systemwide grammar checker; and "improves general stability when running third-party applications."

OS X 10.5.2 also incorporates the CD and DVD Sharing feature previous provided as a separate installation option on the install disc that shipped with the MacBook Air. When users check CD and DVD Sharing in the Sharing preference pane, users of MacBook Air systems or any Mac running 10.5.2 can "borrow" that Mac's optical drive for copying files or installing software.

A complete list of release notes is available. Mac OS 10.5.2 is available via the Software Update mechanism in Mac OS X or via direct download.

Once you install and restart your computer, you'll notice another update that becomes available. Leopard Graphics Update 1.0 "improves the stability and compatibility of your Mac," according to notes accompanying the update. The update requires Mac OS X 10.5.2.


Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Synchronize Files in Folders and USB Drives with SyncToy

Microsoft Synctoy is a must-have utility to help you synchronize files in different directories of the same computer or between a computer and external storage devices like the iPod and USB pen drives.

As in the figure above, you first select a pair of folders that you want to keep in Sync via Synctoy. Then decide the action - should the two folders be clones or only the new files have to be copied ?

SyncToy supports wild-cards in file names (like *.exe or holiday_*.jpg) so you can decide what files are included or excluded during the sync process.

And using SyncToy is completely risk free - it has a wonderful preview feature that lets you see what operations would take place during the run without performing any changes on your computer.

SyncToy v2.0 [for Windows XP and Vista]


Monday, February 4, 2008

Free Software Programs for Windows

Audio Editing: Audacity - it can record, remove noise from audio and also mix multiple sound track. With little effort, you can use Audacity to record live streaming music from Internet radio stations.

Video Editing: Windows Movie Maker from Microsoft is a good choice. It has all the basic video editing tools plus a good collection of transitions and video effects. For advanced usage, get the powerful VirtualDub - it has a number of filters (like video rotation), can create videos from image sequences, split videos or even extract sound from video tracks.

Instant Messenger: If your friends are spread across different services like Google Talk, Yahoo! Messenger, MSN and others, get Pidgin and connect to all popular IM services using a single software. Pidgin provides a tabbed interface so the desktop won’t look cluttered even if you are simultaneously chatting with multiple buddies.

Computer Security: Your computer needs a firewall program like ZoneAlarm or Comodo Pro to stop spyware programs from connecting to websites secretly and for blocking any Internet intruders. For removing viruses from infected systems, AVG Antivirus and Avast are very reliable and unlike other commercial software, they are not heavy on system resources.

Multimedia Players: You may already have Windows Media Player and iTunes on your computer but they are not capable of playing all audio and video formats. For this reason, use VLC Media Player that is light-weight and supports almost everything including DVDs and Flash Videos that you have downloaded from YouTube. Another option is GOM player.

Digital Photography: Taking photos with your digital camera is just half the job . For organizing your vast picture collection, get Google Picasa or Windows Live Photo Gallery. With Picasa, you can create Screensavers and Picture Collages while Live Gallery has a wonderful photo stitching feature for making panoramas. Both let you transfer pictures from the desktop to Flickr. For advanced photo editing, use Paint.NET or GIMP.

Windows Enhancements: If you like using keyboard more than the mouse, get Launchy - it helps you start your favorite programs (and documents) without touching the Windows Start Menu. TweakUI is another desktop enhancement to help you control the appearance of Windows, change the location of default folders and so much more.

Spring Cleaning: WinDirStat gives you a visual overview of files and folders that are consuming the bulk of space on your hard drive so you know where to hit the delete key when the drive is full. CCleaner with automatically find and remove all the unnecessary temp files from your computer reclaiming valuable hard drive space. It also clears all the junk from Windows registry so your system runs faster. MyUninstaller will help you remove software that do show up in Windows Add Remove control panel.

Desktop Email: If you like checking and replying to your web email from the desktop, Windows Live Mail and ThunderBird are worth considering. They let you check multiple e-mail accounts in one place, apply filters to incoming email, add another layer of protection from junk email, built-in RSS reader and best of all, you can work offline.

DVD Tools: For creating backup copies of your DVD video disks onto the hard drive, use DVD Shrink. For extracting movie scenes and MP3 music from DVDs, HandBrake is a good choice. It can also be used to export your DVDs into portable players like the iPod.

Other Worthy Mentions: HTTrack helps you create a mirror copy of any website on the hard drive for offline reading. Orbit Downloader lets you save streaming music and videos from almost every website. Copernic Desktop is an excellent software for finding emails, documents, photos and other multimedia files on your computer. Microsoft SyncToy provides a visual interface for synchronizing file folders between computers and external drives.


Sunday, February 3, 2008

Can't Sleep?

Seeking sound sleep ? Try these tips for good night sleep:

» Throw your TV set and computer out of the bedroom!! (^_^)

» Take a cool shower before jumping into the bed.

» Wear loose cotton clothes (preferable white) - no denims or trousers please.

» Fix a sleeping schedule and stick to the routine honestly.

» Is the pillow good enough ? In a lot of cases, pillows and uncomfortable mattress may lead to sleep disorders.

» Reduce intake of spices, chocolates and caffeine, especially after lunchtime.

» The old granny's trick - take a glass of warm milk just before going to bed.

» If you are worried about something that preventing your from sleeping, try to think of ways to resolve it. Opening a discussion with the partner may help.

» Do some physical work or Yoga exercises some 3-4 hours before the sleeping time.

» There should be a healthy gap between your dinner and sleeping time.

» SEX with your partner before bedtime will also aid in getting a good sleep. (haha!)

» If your mind is flooded with ideas and tasks for the next day, jot them down on a piece of paper so that you get relaxed.

» When nothing helps, tune in to some World space Radio station for soft, slow, relaxing music like jazz, folk or orchestral pieces.

Hope these sleeping tricks will help you sleep, stay asleep, and wake up refreshed next day. Sweet Dreams!

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Hottest Hybrids of 2008

By Jim Gorzelany

Hybrids are still niche vehicles, but at their current rate of growth, they could dominate the roads in another five or 10 years.

U.S. hybrid sales jumped more than 34 percent to a total of 338,851 in 2007, according to CNW Marketing Research in Bandon, Ore. The only other vehicle segment that grew faster than hybrids in 2007 was what CNW calls “budget cars.” Sales of these small, inexpensive models, which include the Chevrolet Aveo, Honda Fit, and Toyota Yaris, grew at an astonishing rate of nearly 48 percent.

With rising gas prices and higher fuel economy standards mandated by the federal government, analysts expect hybrid technology to proliferate in the coming years. “You’re going to see wider availability of hybrid powertrains as options on more and more vehicles,” says David Wurster, president of the Bloomfield Hills, Mich.-based market research firm Vincentric. “I don’t think they’re going to be the ‘unique’ vehicles for much longer because it’s going to become commonplace technology.”

With new models entering the market and their popularity expected to rise, CNW predicts that 1.1 million hybrids will be sold annually by 2010.

Though their numbers continue to swell, hybrids still carry a premium for the added hardware, usually electric motors and a battery pack, estimated on average to be $3,000 over the cost of their conventionally powered equivalents. But unless this figure drops dramatically or gas prices take another large leap, some feel the price differential will continue to be a barrier to hybrids' widespread acceptance. “It comes down to the old adage that there’s no free lunch,” says John Wolkonowicz, a senior market analyst with Global Insight in Detroit. “You can build vehicles that get better fuel economy and with reduced emissions, but there’s a cost connected to all that.”

To help soften the financial blow and spur sales, the federal government provides an income tax credit for buyers of hybrid vehicles. This credit can be as much as $3,000 on a vehicle like the Ford Escape Hybrid or Mercury Mariner Hybrid. However, these credits are phased out once an automaker sells 60,000 hybrid vehicles.

The tax credits have already expired for Toyota and Lexus models and are in the process of being phased out for the Honda Civic Hybrid. The Civic Hybrid’s credit was cut in half to $1,050 on January 1, and will be reduced to $525 after July 1. Hybrid vehicles from automakers that haven’t met the sales quota will continue to qualify for a full tax credit through 2008. Currently, this includes the Ford Escape Hybrid and Mercury Mariner Hybrid.

The lack of tax incentives doesn’t seem to have hurt the Toyota Prius’ popularity, however, with 181,221 units sold in 2007 for an increase of nearly 70 percent over 2006, according to CNW. The Prius remains the most popular hybrid in the U.S. by an astronomical margin. The second most sold hybrid in 2007 was another Toyota, the Camry hybrid, at 54,492 units.

This year, hybrid powertrains are being fitted into some of the most unlikely vehicles: full-size SUVs. The Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid and GMC Yukon Hybrid are now available, and hybrid versions of the Cadillac Escalade, Chrysler Aspen, and Dodge Durango go on sale late in 2008 as 2009 models.

“This is probably one of the toughest market segments to break through with a hybrid,” says Lonnie Miller, director of industry analysis at market research firm R.L. Polk and Company in Southfield, Mich. “We don’t understand what’s driving GM’s decision to build them, but it’s a very good litmus test for the broad-based acceptance of hybrids if the pickup buyers really take to it.”

General Motors, which produces the Escalade, Tahoe, and Yukon hybrids, is also launching hybrid versions of its full-size pickup trucks, the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra, in the fall. Both were sold in “mild-hybrid” versions in 2005 and 2006. They're called "mild hybrids" because they didn’t include an electric motor to help with propulsion and simply used a revised starter system to shut down the gasoline engine when idling. This saved an average of just one mpg.

The new hybrid SUVs and pickups will use a complex “two-mode” hybrid system that was co-developed by General Motors, BMW, and the former DaimlerChrysler. GM expects a 25 percent boost in combined city/highway fuel economy over the gasoline-powered versions, which amounts to about a 4-mpg improvement.

A short test drive of the Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid left us intrigued. The burly truck basically drives like a Prius around town, using only its electric motor at low speeds, but it can still haul and tow heavy loads thanks to its potent V8 gasoline engine.

The same two-mode hybrid technology used in the Tahoe and Yukon hybrids will be mated with a smaller engine (a V6 instead of a V8) in a smaller vehicle, the 2009 Saturn Vue Green Line. A Vue Green Line is already on sale, but includes a mild hybrid system with an electric motor and battery pack that gives limited assistance to a four-cylinder gasoline engine. The same powertrain is used on the 2008 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid and Saturn Aura Green Line.

Other new hybrids on the horizon include versions of the midsize Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan sedans, the compact Hyundai Accent and Kia Rio, and even two new Honda hybrids. Also look for the flagship Mercedes- Benz S-Class sedan, the diminutive Smart, and the Audi Q7, Porsche Cayenne, and Volkswagen Touareg SUVs to get the hybrid treatment by the end of the decade. Porsche also has announced a hybrid version of its new high-performance sedan, slated to go on sale in a few years.

GM hopes to start selling the first mass-produced plug-in hybrid by 2010, as either the Saturn Vue Green Line with plug-in capability, or the futuristically styled Chevrolet Volt. The Volt, in particular, has the potential to achieve triple-digit fuel economy as it will run solely on electricity and use a small gasoline engine as a generator of sorts to recharge the battery on the fly. GM anticaptes a 40-mile range on electricity alone and says that its batteries can be recharged by plugging them into a regular household electric outlet.

The only catch is that the Volt requires advanced lithium-ion batteries (like those in cell phones and laptop computers, only much larger) that have yet to be fully developed for automotive use. The biggest issue is that they can overheat and cause a meltdown.

Still, if Chevrolet can deliver on its promises and sell the Volt for less than $30,000, there’s little doubt it will be a true breakthrough. “If the technology is there, the Chevy Volt could be the next big thing,” Wurster says.