Archive for the ‘Tech’ Category

Really old laptop improves my focus

Sunday, September 12th, 2010

I decided to upgrade to a newer Thinkpad laptop. Luckily, my old machine had still retained most of its value – I sold it yesterday morning for about what I had purchased it for a year and a half ago, thanks to Craigslist. Unfortunately, I haven’t yet ordered the replacement, waiting for a good sale might take a while, and I have to have something to use in my programming / project management job.

So I find myself typing on an old Thinkpad T23, a seriously amazing computer if we were still living in 2002, that I pulled out of a trashcan a while back. Seriously. It is like a wake up call. First of all, I can’t believe it actually works with the latest version of Ubuntu. It is slow, and I have to watch what I do since it only has 512MB of RAM, but it is surprisingly usable.

In fact, it is like a breath of fresh air in some ways. When I’m running my programming environment, I can’t really have my email program or a web browser running at the same time. So I have to focus on one thing at a time, and it really improved my concentration today since I hop around much less, and stay on track rather than continuously checking email and websites.

Although it is tempting to try and live with this machine long-term, I know that isn’t practical, as it does have some severe limitations that are going to cost me time and energy. But I’m actually looking forward to what I’m viewing as an experiment in tech minimalism for the next few weeks.

Prepaid cellphone plans – wave of the future?

Wednesday, July 20th, 2005

Right now, standard cellphone plans are monthly, with a pretty hefty bucket of minutes. My wife and I never even come close to using all of our minutes, yet we pay the same amount as if we’d used all of them. Plus, the monthly bills have a large number taxes and additional fees that really swell the total amount paid. The Washington Post had an article a little while ago about prepaid being used more and more by folks who don’t want a monthly plan, especially younger users. My mom uses a prepaid service, and it works fine for her. Now Net10 has announced that they have flat-rate 10 cents/minute prepaid cellphone service, nationwide. That is getting close to tempting for a switch. At minimum, it will hopefully put more pressure on cellphone companies to lower their monthly rates. For now, I’m staying put since I like not worrying about minutes at all, but this is something to keep an eye on.

Via I4u.

Looks unsafe at any speed, but wow, this two-seater is pretty cool

Tuesday, July 19th, 2005

Twike makes a skimpy looking battery powered two-seater vehicle that supposedly gets the equivalent of 550mpg and has a max speed of 55mph. Of course, if you hit a speed bump, you’re probably going to be hurting, but I’d love to be proven wrong. Maybe it has a rollcage or something? I think I’d also want to add one of those orange flags on a long pole your mom put on your bike when you were a youngin’ so that cars would hesitate a second before running you down – the Twike seems like it might be a bit hard to see from a Hummer.

Via TreeHugger.

Hacking the Prius so you can plug it into the wall

Friday, July 15th, 2005

Yes, hybrid is a good thing. I’ve been following the story of the folks who created a kit to allow you to plug in your Prius and then run it 100% on battery to get phenominal gas mileage. Some people ask why Toyota didn’t just make it an option. I think they made the right choice for the broader market – they made it work just like a standard car, removing one of the possible pieces of opposition to adopting the technology. In addition, there are some significant additional costs, like more battery storage, that would make it non-trivial to add.

But I think we’re almost ready for it as a manufacturer option in the next few years – once people really internalize that they can use it just like a normal car, having the plug-in option to really crank that gas bill down will probably be a welcome improvement. Until then, the enthusiast hacker market can get it from EDrive right now.

Cheaper, simpler cellphones

Wednesday, July 13th, 2005

I love my cellphone, but sometimes it crashes and refuses to make a call. And it isn’t a cheap model – it just got distracted by doing too many other things like keeping my calendar. Most of the world can’t afford even a basic cellphone model. Wired talks about how Cheap Is New Cell-Phone Mantra, with manufacturers hoping to create a phone that will sell for under $15 by 2008. To do it, they need to minimize just about everything:

Manufacturers also cut costs by using black-and-white screens, doing away with MP3 support for ring tones and providing 100 spaces for contact information rather than 500.

Well, that’s ok. Please just make them call reliably.

Don’t talk on your cellphone while driving. At all.

Tuesday, July 12th, 2005

Today’s no-brainer: do not talk on your cellphone while driving. I don’t know why anyone would still do this, but CNN indicates that you’re four times more likely to have a serious accident while yakking away on your phone. Of course, the idiot industry spokespeople say everything is fine:

The Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association, a Washington-based trade group, downplayed the findings, saying the distractions associated with mobile phones are no different from those encountered by drivers who eat or talk with passengers as they drive.

Well, first, you shouldn’t be eating while driving either. But talking on your cellphone is very clearly different than talking to someone in the passenger seat. The passenger sees the same road conditions that you do, and the flow of the conversation is better – they see when you’re unable to talk, and shut up so that you can navigate a tricky situation. After all, they’ll die too if you flip the car. The pressure of a normal phone conversation with someone who can’t see the road, on the other hand, means that it takes much more effort to keep the conversation going – the person on the other end is less forgiving of pauses and lack of attention. Plus, with cellphone voice quality usually being poor, you have to concentrate much harder just to hear what the other person is saying. That’s why hands-free headsets don’t really help either – physically holding the phone up to your ear is less of an issue than being distracted by keeping the conversation going.

I love my cellphone. But I like not being messed up in an accident even more. Here’s something to not just minimize – don’t do it at all.

Easiest wristwatch I’ve seen (yet)

Monday, July 11th, 2005

If we can put men on the moon, why is it still fiddly to get watch batteries replaced and keep synced to the current time? There is lots of technology in this new watch mechanism, since it is solar powered and automatically sets its time from radio signals in three different countries. With technology, less is often more – getting the latest gadgets doesn’t always simplify our lives. But when done correctly, more can be less – with more technology, we can (sometimes) have less to fiddle with and worry about. This is a good thing – but when will it work on a Mars base? What time is it there anyway?

Via I4U.

LED light goes for a year on one battery

Friday, July 8th, 2005

The Pak-Lite is a LED light that simply clips on to the top of a 9V battery. They claim that in low power mode, it lasted for a year continuously on a lithium 9V battery. Pretty impressive. 9V batteries may be less convenient than the more standard AA size, but in addition to being able to give your tongue a good jolt, they are conveniently shaped to form a flashlight handle. They suggest using your old smoke detector batteries, which probably have some juice left in them.

Now I’m waiting for a good LED light for my home that charges via solar during the day, and gives off light like a candle at night. Nothing to plug in, no cables, no chargers…cool.

The fingernail flash drive

Thursday, July 7th, 2005

No, not fingernail-sized, but writing data on your actual fingernail. Flash drives have let us carry lots of data around easily, but now the problem is that they can easily be lost since they are the size of loose change. This is just about the lower limit of minimalism for carrying data around. The information is written to the fingernail, and can be read back off later. It sounds like it isn’t visible under normal light, so it won’t look like you have a barcode manicure. Data life is 6 months…unless it is the data at the tip of the fingernail, I guess, since 6 months is how long it takes for the nail to completely grow out. Probably doesn’t work too well if you wear nail polish.

Via Slashdot. (site was down yesterday, but seems ok now)

Since two wheels is too many on a Segway…

Wednesday, July 6th, 2005

Now this is minimalism. Obviously the big problem with the Segway is that it has too many wheels. Fortunately, Trevor Blackwell has solved this by creating a unicycle version. Whee!

Via LifeHacker.