Archive for the ‘Products’ Category

12,500 mpg car

Wednesday, July 6th, 2005

OK, this “car” is really small, and it may or may not handle hills. There is no cargo space – in fact, I don’t think you can carry anything in your pockets, and you have to be a 13 year-old or horse jockey to fit into it. But it apparently really does get 12,500 mpg. Wow.

Source: TreeHugger.

Internet phone (VOIP) service review

Friday, July 1st, 2005

Slate has a decent review of various VOIP services. They like AT&T CallVantage, but it sounds like you may want to wait a bit yet based on this opinion of VOIP as a whole:

Reliability also is not always up to land-line snuff. Sometimes there’s no dial tone, your outgoing calls don’t go through, or the other party can’t hear you. I also have a nagging suspicion that I am missing important calls, a fear stoked by scattered complaints like, “Your Internet phone sucks” and, “Why does your damned phone never pick up?”

Sounds like our cellphone now, so we’ll just stick with that.

Vibrating wristwatch

Friday, July 1st, 2005

How many times have you been at a movie, in a lecture, or on the train and heard someone’s watch beeping? And have them not even notice? Grrrrr. This Casio GW-400J vibrating watch (covered at Watch Report) makes too much sense – you feel it vibrate, and nobody else knows. My wife’s analog/digital combo watch once started beeping and wouldn’t stop. I had to get out tools and pry the back off and remove the battery to get it to stop. I now have a watch that has no beeping capability at all, to make SURE that never happens to me.

Maybe if they make this thing smaller and less dorky, my next watch will vibrate.

Internet telephones – FAQ

Thursday, June 30th, 2005

I like the idea, but haven’t done it yet – I get free long distance on my cellphone, and since I’m a social recluse, I just don’t talk that much anyway. Our landline has the ringer shut off since we only use it for DSL. But I know that eventually we’ll go with VOIP, if only to get rid of another annoying monthly bill. Lifehacker points us to this good FAQ on how to do it. Still too confusing, but it is getting better.

IMAP is better email

Wednesday, June 29th, 2005

IMAP lets you have the best parts of a corporate email server for your personal life. Jennifer Berger at MacWorld recently saw the light – you should take a look. As she says:

IMAP lets me keep all my e-mail on my company’s e-mail server, along with any custom folders, and my Sent items. I can now find my way though any e-mail thread, no matter which machine I’m using. The downside of this situation, of course, and one that might make a lot of people nervous, is that everything is stored on a server unless you move items to your computer.

Well, if you use a client like Thunderbird, you can cache all the email locally and back it up to CD, avoiding the problem of having email only on the server. Once you have it all set up, it really is simpler than trying to fake everything through POP3 access. I’ve even moved my mom over to IMAP through Fastmail.

Consolidate your computer and TV

Tuesday, June 28th, 2005

This is a great way to save on clutter and expense. We live in an apartment, so the computer is right where an entertainment center would be anyway. Rather than buying a big, heavy, expensive TV plus a big, heavy, expensive monitor, put all the cash into a nice LCD monitor. You’ll need a TV tuner card – but they can be picked up pretty cheaply now, even for good quality modern cards. Apparently software like Beyond TV is pretty cool, but most cards come with basic software included. There are HDTV / Digital TV solutions as well, but that whole story is too complicated for this Minimalist – we’ll wait another year or two before looking into it again.

But what about your laptop? Digital Media Thoughts pointed us to the amazingly small and simple Compro USB TV Tuner Stick. It looks like a USB thumb drive, but you plug it in, and it is a full TV tuner. No need for external power or an antenna. Yow. If it actually tunes in well, that looks like a pretty nice solution.

The anti-minimalist zippo lighter case

Tuesday, June 28th, 2005

The very un-minimalist Uncrate (“Uncrate is a web magazine for guys who love stuff. Our team finds the best gadgets, clothes, cars and more so you can blow your rent money easier.”) has a pointer to the Zippo Cargo Case, which allows you to stow your indispensible Zippo lighter in your checked luggage. Hmmm. Now that’s a pretty darn specific need to fill.

That said, Otterbox has pretty cool cases for protecting your gear.

Via Gizmodo.

Tiny little dishwashers

Thursday, June 23rd, 2005

Anyone know if these little Japanese dishwashers actually work? Also, does anyone know whether dishwashers really save water over hand washing, or is that an urban myth? (Via Engadget)

Retractable cables rock, but I can’t find…

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2005

I hate cables and adapters both at home and while traveling. Problem number one is the huge number of incompatible chargers. This WaPo article says it best:

“If you switch [cell phone] brands, it won’t work,” Kammerer said of his many chargers. “I wish they were standardized. My briefcase gets heavy.”

Manufacturers argue that providing their own chargers ensures the quality of the service, said Jeff Joseph, a spokesman for the Consumer Electronics Association. Also, at $30 to $50 for a charger, “it’s an important revenue source.”

Yeah, whatever. I’d buy more electronics if I didn’t have to ditch all my accessories and adapters, and that would also be an important revenue source. -10 points for Jeff Joseph. I don’t know how to solve the charger problem yet. There are some products that try to be an all-in-one charging solution, but I’ve never found any that seem really good.

For other cable issues, retractable cables can at least help while you’re on the road. Zip-linq is the most famous, but now there are tons of knock-offs. This kit combines a whole bunch of retractable cables in one case, so you at least get a bulk discount, I guess. But it is still quite a bit of stuff to drag around. This kit is a much better solution. It has a single retractable cable, with adapters to turn it into a variety of different connectors. But it still is too many little parts to keep track of. I haven’t been able to find the best of all worlds. I like the Roadwired style of retractable cable. It is a solid hunk of rectangular plastic you can throw in your bag without worrying about anything snagging or breaking. I want one of these with slots to store a bunch of adapters to reconfigure the cable for phone, ethernet, USB, etc. That would be the best of all worlds. Anyone know of such a thing?

Artificial legs: high technology = simplicity

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2005

Most often, high tech is overly complicated. However, as the NYT points out this morning, high tech is making prostheses much simpler and better for those who have lost their legs. Of course, they have to be plugged in, but that seems reasonable for the benefit they provide:

He recalled attending a party where the lithium-ion batteries for his legs went dead.

“I usually get 30 hours out of them before I have to charge them again,” he said. “But I didn’t charge them up the day before.”

When his legs ran out of power, he said he spent most of his time sitting on a couch talking to people with his legs plugged into an electrical outlet nearby. “It was fine,” he said, adding that no one seemed to care.

I love the phrase “when his legs ran out of power.” Happened to me while jogging this morning, but I had to eat a hearty breakfast of huevos rancheros to fuel back up.