Archive for Cool Gadgets

Dream Car

Electric Mini CooperI want an all electric Mini! It’s got 160 horsepower in each wheel and a range of 900 miles, a small gas engine charges it up on long trips. The braking is entirely electromagnetic, friction is so last century. I’m not keen on their choice of color, but if I had the ability to actually aquire such a thing I’m sure I could also spring for a repainting.

I do have a few concerns.  What’s so “ultra” about the capacitors?  I’m suspecious of any person who uses such a prefix, and you should be too.  Also, I suspect that the regnerative braking doesn’t quite make you “assured of collecting most of the expended energy when it is time to slow down rapidly.” What sort of efficiency do you get with that anyway? I’m sure those capacitors help, being ultra and all, but hmm….  Whatever, if it works, bring it on!


My New Crumpler Backpack

Crumpler's Whickey and Cox photography backpackWhile in New York I specifically hunted down the tiny little Crumpler store in SoHo to try out a potential backpack. It’s of a type I’ve been wanting for a while, one which can carry my camera gear along with my laptop. The idea is to be able to carry my digital SLR almost everywhere I go; there’s no point owning a camera that stays at home.

I decided on The Whickey and Cox [Crumpler photo bags], which holds a 15″ laptop (it’s actually even more spacious than needed for my 15″ Thinkpad T42p) and a significant amount of camera gear (potentially a couple bodies and a few lenses). Even though I don’t have enough camera gear to fill it up, the design is perfect for all the odd bits of electronics and other lumpy things I often carry. There’s a smaller pack (The Sinking Barge) that would hold my current camera gear and laptop just fine, but it doesn’t leave much room beyond that. When I visited the store they were currently out of the color I wanted (the sandy brown alternative is quite ugly, I’d say) so back at Kyle’s that night I ordered it online. By the time I returned from Mexico the backpack had arrived.

In general it is great, I can carry most everything I usually carry plus my digitial SLR. The only thing that I sometimes carry that doesn’t fit well is books of any significant thickness. Also, the pockets that are accessible from the outside are nowhere close to as easy to use as the ones on my old backpack. The opening is so narrow and the pocket so deep that it is difficult and sometimes painful to get your hand down in there; so, there is no way you can throw small things in and expect to dig them out easily. This isn’t much of a problem since the organization inside the main compartment is so nice: there are a couple small zippered pouches, one that goes along with the laptop sleeve. I find it quite comfy to wear. The back is a bit more padded than my old backpack and yet it is still quite stiff because the laptop sits right there. My old backpack from Spire holds the laptop further from your back but has a stiff plastic sheet conforming to your back which I have grown to really like. The stiff back makes the pack quite confortable and solid no matter what you put in it, and I was worried I would miss that in the Crumpler bag. But, on the whole, the Crumpler bag turns out to be a more rigid pack thanks to the foam lined camera compartment and the location of the laptop.

For the record, my old backpack is an early version of the Spire Meta, which I still highly recommend. As far as I know, it is the only backpack short of a true hiking pack that has a waist belt designed to carry a substantial load. It also has two very nice handles, one on top and one on the side that are far better than the usual loop of fabric. Also, it expands and contracts well; I can stuff it with clothes for a trip or sinch down some straps and go to work with just a few papers and a laptop in a sleek package.


The Sweetest of Switches

Switch with red safety coverI’m here to tell you that there really is progress in the world: if Radio Shack had had this “switch with safety cover” when I was a kid my little head would have exploded with joy. Now they do, and we can all feel a little better for it. Thank you Radio Shack, for being just around the corner you’re really not that bad.


My New Wallet

Black and orange J Fold walletI should really write something about my trip last week to Brookhaven National Lab and New York City. But for the moment I will keep my comments to one brief update: I now have a new wallet. I was thinking about getting one and the MoMA store offered me a nice opportunity to consider some possibilities. I settled on the black and orange J-Fold. It’s thinner and certainly more interesting than my previous wallet, which served me well since as long ago as elementary school. I can only hope this one lasts as long.

Other items of interest in the MoMA store:


My phone in red

Red K750iIt seems there is now a red version of my phone. In contrast, I am green with envy.

But, the question is why would you be buying the K750i when you can have the latest and greatest, the K800i, do you like red that much? (The 800 has 3G, a 3.2MP camera with a flash and stabaliztion, plus I think it looks cooler than the 750. What? The $335 price difference–at Mobilebee–you say? Psshhaw!)

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Ricoh R4

Ricoh R4
I absolutely loved my Ricoh GR1 that I bought back in the second year of college. It was a tiny camera, one of the smallest 35mm cameras you could get with an incredible lens and professional finish. Sadly, I took it along when I went to Geneva and lost it somewhere. I didn’t use enough to even have an idea where I ended up losing it. My last memory of if was nearly losing it during my first trip to Pisa moments before I was about to climb the tower. I especially liked that wide angle lens. Thus a new camera from Ricoh, the R4, announced on dpreview is very interesting. I has three great features: image stabilization, wide angle, and a long range zoom (28-200 in 35mm equivalent) all in a relatively small package. One issue, though, is the relatively slow lens. My ideal camera would open up to at least f/2.8 at the wide end and have decent low-light performance. The image stabalization helps, but it looks like they may have sacrificed some speed to get the long zoom, a bit of a shame.


Bike Tree

bike tree
A few years ago hi-tech bicycle stands sprouted up Geneva like fungi. While I was there I kept meaning to swing by one of the bike trees and check it out, but I nevered seemed to cross my mind when I was actually in town. This week Gizmodo reminded me of my negligence. I promise I won’t let it happen again. Also, even if you are a bicycle hater who lives and dies on a minimum of four wheels you still should visit the bike tree website if only for the nostalgic early-90s web design complete with prominent use of the blink tag.


Qonos Calculator

Quonos Calculator prototype rendering
The battery in my HP48SX memory expansion card (a whole 128K!) was running out and I ignored the warnings, so I lost all the data on my calculator. It’s not a big loss; most of it is backed up; but, the incident just serves to remind me of the few unpleasant aspects of this otherwise wonderful calculator. The screen is dim, having neither a backlight nor respectable constrast; the memory is limited and volatile; the processor is slow. Sadly, in recent years HP has been focusing much on half-assed hardware that is made to be consumed more than it is made to be used. Profitable crap.

Thankfully there is a glimmer of hope for calculators. The Qonos calculator is an HP49G, a TI-92, and a PDA being developed Hydrix, a company founded by a former HP engineer in Australia. Apparently there is a working prototype and hopefully one day not long from now there will be a working product in my hand. There is a Slashdot article on the Qonos, and there in the comments, scrolling past the arguments about the chain rule, you will hear that Qonos is the name of the Klingon homeworld, in case you were wondering. It looks quite cool, but I don’t like the most recent rederings (too iPodish) as much as the one from last summer shown here.

By the way, I discovered that two articles in MIT’s Technology Review, the most recent of which was titled “Carly’s Way”, have been retracted. They criticised Carly Fiorina managing of HP from the perspective of an senior engineer in HP’s research division. The problem is that neither HP nor Technology Review could verify the existance of the engineer described in the story, and the author isn’t commenting, so we are left to assume they were fabricated. It’s a real shame because the retraction might give Fiorina more credit than she deserves; she and a few others around her really did push HP nose down and advance the throttle to full military. On you can read a scathing review of Fiorina’s tenure as HP CEO. In addition to being obviously more well founded, I find it to be an even harsher criticism than the retracted article. Let’s hope HP pulls itself out of this deadly dive.


Keychain Gardening

keychain plants
A fad I can get behind, growing plants on your keychain. I’m a sucker for small things, and photosynthetic things, and keychains. But much growth time do you you get before you need to replant in your belt buckle?