Archives for : Digital Technology

Solar Power via Power Hotspot

Hotspot from Regen ReNuSolar panels frustrate me. It seems like size, cost, and efficiency are at that tipping point where they’re almost practical, but not. Given the rapid evolution of solar technology, it’s just a matter of time. Perhaps, that time is near.

I just spotted Regen ReNu’s new “Power Hotspot” over on Engadget. This isn’t the microwave sized device that will power your house. We’re not there yet. However, this fairly portable device is great for recharging anything with a battery. From the press release:

At work, the Power HotSpot™ can recharge tools, notebooks and cell phones, or provide power to inverters for AC power. At home, it can power a shed or gazebo light, an aerator or fountain. And for recreation, the Power HotSpot™ brings convenience to the campsite, from re-charging lights to continuous play for radios and iPods to running boat aerators and re-recharging batteries on a dock.

One thing I don’t see on their website just yet… A price!

A Sunny Day for iPhones

How many times have you been at a coffee shop, in the airport, on a plane, or just walking around when your iPhone or iTouch starts flashing a “low battery” warning and there’s no electrical outlet in sight? It happens to me all the time, and since I’m pretty much addicted to the devices, it’s a major problem.

Fortunately, SolLight has come out with a simple and relatively inexpensive solution – solar charging. Now we can harness the power of the sun to make sure that we always have access to the information and entertainment we crave. Plus, the energy is absolutely free and leaves no carbon footprint whatsoever.

The SOLiCharger is a “solar-powered backup/emergency iPod charger.” It’s small and light at just 1.4 ounces, so it’s easy to take wherever you go. Unfortunately, it’s not very fast and needs up to 16 hours (!) of exposure to the sun to reach its maximum charge. That’s enough to charge the iPhone only halfway, but that’s sure better than nothing when your alternative is a dead battery. A 50% charge should last for at least a few hours, and of course you can always charge it again as long as there’s some sunshine to be found. Plus, you can charge your iPhone while you’re using it.

The really nice thing about the SOLiCharger is that it plugs directly into the iPhone or iTouch, so you don’t have to worry about losing or forgetting cables. And it comes in either black or white, so you can get the one that matches your other gadgets.

If you live in a place without much sunshine, or if you need extra battery power at night, you can charge the SOLiCharger from your laptop or desktop computer and use it like a back-up battery, but obviously the main idea is to charge it with sunlight. Fortunately, charging it through an Apple USB cable is faster and takes just under two hours.

Check out the online slideshow for more information and then decide whether you’d like to buy it. SolLight is currently sold out of the $39.95 device, but you can use the company’s website to find retailers near you.

Kindle: Books On The Go

Amazon Kindle 2

Amazon Kindle 2

The promise of e-books took a long time to truly manifest. I’ve long pulled large bits of reading material down to a portable device suchas my n800 for reading on the go. However, this method comes with a few drawbacks. First, there’s a technology hurdle most folks may not want to endure. Second, the solution is technically sloppy. By sloppy, I mean I am using a device with a relatively low resolution color screen to read basic text. On top of that, the device uses a fairly large amount of power – meaning I won’t finish War and Peace before the battery dies.

Things have changed and there now exists a powerful solution for E-Books: Amazon’s Kindle. At just over $350, the device is a bit expensive. However, for the money, you get an amazing tool. The screen is high resolution so the text looks clean. The tech works in such a way that you use very little battery power. There are hundreds of thousands of books availble. Best of all, the device is very easy to use. So if you want a lightweight way of taking and entire library of books with you, the Kindle is the way to go.

But wait, there’s more. Rumor has it, the Kindle 2 is on the way. In little more than a week, you can enjoy the next generation of this snazzy device. What I find more exciting is the way the technology may be impacting our culture – at least in Greece. George Papandreou seems to think it would be a swell idea to repalce school text books with these devices. This seems like one of the best ideas I’ve heard in a long time. Hey Obama, are you listening?

DIY Heat Gaurd: Save You Lap From Your Laptop

I tend to actually put my laptop in my lap. The heat generated by a laptop can be uncomfortable and I’m none too happy about having that kind of heat that close to certain bodyparts. To solve this problem, I bought one of those little usb powered pads with fans that slip under your laptop. It seemed great at first, but quickly proved un-practical. Sure, the fans are nice, but they also drain your battery faster. And the pad itself is kind of thick, heavy, and takes up too much room in a backpack.

While visiting my friend Ninja Dave, I learned a better way. He used a simple piece of corrugated plastic. His came by way of picking up a “For Sale” sign. What a brilliant light weight and inexpensive solution! However, I was only able to find the flat plastic signs myself, not the corrugated plastic. I was able to find a nice big sheet of corrugated plastic, and this is what I did:

I bought  a poster board sized sheet of plastic.

Then, I gathered a razor to cut with and my laptop for measurement. I tried to cut this freehand. Unless you’re good at that sort of thing, I recommend using a straight edge as well.

I laid the laptop on the plastic to determine where to cut. To mark the boundaries, I scored the plastic using the knife. If you prefer, grab a pencil.

Then, I cut along the line.

For a little extra flare, I asked my girlfriend to add her magic touch. She painted. You could also use your favourite stickers.

And yes, she painted a snowboarding pony – or as I call him, Pwnie.

So, moving on, the plastic adds very little weight to my backpack and fits nicely into the same sleeve as my laptop itself. It doesn’t prevent as much heat transfer as the usb powered fan monstrosity; however, it does prevent a fairly high amount of heat transfer. Check out this action shot!

Thanks again to Ninja Dave for the tip, Nino for painting, and Cat for the final action shot!

Black Friday: Two Netbooks On Sale

There are two decent Netbook sales happening Black Friday.

Thanks to Neotrobe for the heads up, on the Acer Aspire One on New Egg for $249.99.

And while exploring, I also ran across Dell’s Inspiron Mini 9 for $299.

I’m torn, myself. The Aspire is $50 cheaper, but the Inspiron comes with Ubuntu. Either way, the prices are good!

Lightweight Computing With Netbooks

I recently posted a video about my Nokia N800. While it’s an amazing machine, sometimes it’s just too underpowered for my needs. Currently, my only alternative is to drag my Dell laptop around with me. I’ve long dreamed of something in the middle, and now it exists. It’s a new class of devices commonly referred to as Netbooks (or, at times, subnotebooks).

Over the years, we’ve seen an interesting trend where powerful computers are getting smaller and more portable while mobile devices (such as phones) are becoming more feature rich and powerful. The netbook craze is a wonderful step in that evolution.

So what can a netbook do for you? A lot more than a PDA but not as much as a full rig. Netbooks typically have limited storage space, particularly those using solid state technology (hard drives have moving parts). The screens are somewhat restricted as well. Most of the latest generation netbooks have 1024×600 screens. Many web designers work around the assumption that most users are running at a screen width of at least 1024 pixels. This means the current state of netbooks are riding right on the fine line of general usability.

Most netbooks deploy the relatively new Atom processor. This means they’re powerful enough for multimedia and most producitivity applications. To get even better performance, not to mention saving a lot of money, many netbooks offer a Linux operating system instead of the common (and bloated) MS Windows OS. One of the most popular Linux distributions, Ubuntu, is currently working on a distribution targeted directly at netbook type devices. I’ve personally used Ubuntu as my primary operating system for nearly 3 years and love it. However, I’m also a general fan of open source – being that I’m an advocate for Intellectual Sustainability.

So what netbook should you buy? That’s a tough question. The Asus EEE really started it all. Since then we’ve seen the Acer Aspire One, Dell Inspiron Mini 9, HP Mini 1000, MSI Wind, Samsung NC10, Toshiba NB100, and just today Pac Bell announced their new netbook. If you want to do the research and start comparing features, there are many buyers guides on the Internet including this one and this one. In the end, you’ll want to find the feature set that best matches what you use your computer for.

Personally, I’m leaning towards the Acer. It has a good feature set and a good price point. The machine does run Linux, howerver it is a customized version from Acer. I would prefer a more standard distribution such as the Ubuntu machines. Dell provides Ubuntu on their Mini 9, but their pricing is a bit steeper than other options. My decision, at least for now, is to wait until next year to buy.

If you want one NOW, this weekend is your chance. Every physical world Microcenter is recieving 30 machines (20 MSI Winds and 10 Acer Aspire Ones) and they are on sale for $300. A viable, usable, and extremely lightweight and portable computing solution for just $300 is something worth smiling about.

Ultraportable Computing With The Nokia N800

Scott introduces us to the Nokia N800 Internet tablet and iGo keyboard. For more information, try these links:

N800s on Ebay
N800 on Wikipedia
Maemo on Wikipedia The Linux based OS running on the N800
N800 on Nokia’s Site
N810 WiMax on Nokia’s Site (Wimax support, keyboard, gps, and more)
iGo Folding Keyboard on Amazon

Shout Out: is all about anything that’s lightweight. On my own adventures in life, I’ve often found myself working on the road. In fact, I’ve often blogged about my “mobile office“. As such, you’re likely to find many future GLW articles about mobile computing.

I recently found a terrific site called Digital Nomads. The site is a community hub for exactly the type of folks who tote around their mobile office, much the way I love to do. From their own about page:

Digital Nomads is a community site for individuals that work or play without regard for their physical location. It is a place where they can come together to read about other digital nomads, share ideas, tips and tricks, and best practices, and read the latest nomad-oriented news. Digital Nomads live a lifestyle where their laptop and other electronic devices create the center of their office and/or play-space.

If you’re one of us, you might want to head on over and get involved with Digital Nomads.