Archive for the ‘Tech’ 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.

Simplifying the organization stuff that was supposed to make things simpler

Thursday, June 30th, 2005

A Million Monkeys Typing has The Beginner’s Mind, a Zen riff on too much organization getting in the way of living an actual life:

Why did I need to have several versions of a contact list, in three different forms? One is enough. Did I really need two ways of tracking projects, and did I really need a web interface for them? Why did I need four different calendar-based ways of keeping time? Did I need to make all my project files text-searchable? Was it necessary to have my IM lists tied into my contact lists?

Phew. I’m feeling tired just thinking about it. Let this be a warning to all of you. Via 43 Folders.

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.

Handhelds/PDAs replacing laptops? I think not.

Wednesday, June 29th, 2005

Brighthand recently ran an editorial titled Handhelds vs. Laptops — How to Lighten Your Load in One Easy Lesson. Well, that’s an appealing premise – I’d love to lighten my load, but I still take my Thinkpad with me when I need something more than my cellphone. It isn’t because handhelds and PDAs aren’t amazingly capable. It is because I don’t want to spend the time and effort learning the foibles of another operating system, figure out how to get my data back and forth, and have another thingee to charge, maintain, etc. Blech. Laptops are getting very small and light. I think they are going to win for any real work situation.

And yes, I’ve tried the fold-up keyboards, pocket versions of Word and Excel, and the whole 9 yards, so no comments about how I just need to try it out.

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 Joys of Clutter” – Oh, the horror!

Friday, June 24th, 2005

Loyd’s basement office sounds like my worst nightmare:

At times, it can be difficult to navigate through piles of hardware. With various PC cases littering the floor and every tabletop surface holding heat sinks, CDs, manuals, game boxes, and other assorted small hardware, the basement lab will often look like the Tasmanian Devil just whirled through.

But it’s my space, and I like it.

Hie thee to an electronics recycling service!

Followup: safe data doesn’t exist

Thursday, June 23rd, 2005

As mentioned in an earlier post, if you store data, it is vulnerable. In the case of CardSystems Solutions and the recent massive data theft, they were particularly vulnerable since they failed to secure their network, even though they had been certified to a security standard set by MasterCard and Visa. Of course, that certification process is prone to error. The key issue is that this data is really useful to companies in many ways, but only if people have access to it. Providing more access means less security. They shouldn’t have kept the data in the first place, and of course it got out into the wild. Minimalism should be the starting point of data security – if you don’t absolutely need it, don’t keep it. Unfortunately, the “more is better” paradigm is dominant in data as well as physical clutter.