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Google Briefcase: Access to your Google Apps when you're not online

The great thing about web based applications is all your data is stored on a server instead of on your computer and the worst thing about web based applications is all your data is stored on a server instead of on your computer.  As much as I love Gmail, Google Calendar, Documents and Spreadsheets and all the other Google applications I've been burned more than once by not having an important e-mail or document on my computer when I couldn't get to an internet connection.  Google should really create a desktop application that automatically saves recent e-mails and active documents to your computer so you can get to your stuff when you can't get to an Internet connection, sort of like a briefcase that automatically grabs all your important stuff.

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Ok, so aluminum is pretty tough


These pictures of a MacBook Pro that took a bullet during a mugging in Brazil pretty much have me eating my words about the durability of aluminum versus polycarbonate.  The aluminum definitely seemed to protect the components of the computer.  I do wonder how a polycarbonate MacBook or iBook would have fared in the same situation, as polycarbonate is used to make bulletproof glass.

photograph by fidgetingwildly

Tablet PC to Replace Medical Charts


Ready for some scary statistics?  Each year about 1.5 million people are injured due to medical mistakes, and about 90,000 are killed.  Numbers like that make me want to write to Apple and tell them to stop releasing a cool new music player every few months, and make technology that could save lives.  So I was totally psyched to see the C5 Tablet from Motion Computing developed for health care providers.  It's a tablet computer with a built in barcode scanner, RFID reader, and camera.  Plus it's fully sealed so it can be cleaned and disinfected.  While a lot of really good thinking went into the device, the $2200 price tag will probably put it out of reach for most hospitals, especially the ones that need it most.  Given that OLPC was able to make a $140 laptop, Motion and collaborator Intel could have tried a little harder to bring the price down.  The main problem is that it runs full blown Windows, instead of Windows Mobile or a custom Linux build (like OLPC does).  Read on for more on this.

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Polycarbonate vs Aluminum for Laptops


The MacBook shown at left has a polycarbonate plastic exterior, while the MacBook Pro (right) is aluminum. Both materials have their pros and cons, aluminum is stronger so it can be thinner than plastic yielding sleeker notebooks with that "I'm expensive" look. Also, aluminum may provide better cooling for the interior components of the computer than plastic. But when it comes to durability, my personal experience tells me there's no clear winner. Under impact or stress polycarbonate can dent, and aluminum can warp or dent. However, based on my observations, aluminum can be damaged more easily than plastic. Read on for why polycarbonate might just be a better material for laptops.

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Shopping Greener, Buying Used and Refurbished

So this entry isn’t really a “They should do that” as it is a “You should do that.” Like most people, I love getting new stuff. But it’s crossed my mind a few too many times that buying stuff has an environmental cost. After all, everything has to be manufactured, consuming raw materials and energy, and then shipped, consuming more energy. However, there’s a simple way to make shopping a little greener that also saves you money: buy used or refurbished. In particular buying used or refurbished electronics, books, CDs, and DVDs, is a great option. Apple and Dell sell refurbished products directly to customers. And buying used stuff on Amazon couldn’t be easier. Read on for tips about buying refurbished stuff.

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Rumor: EMI to license music DRM-Free!
Plus EMI's Environmental Policy


Rumors have started circulating that EMI will license music DRM-free.  Recent articles in the Chicago Sun-Times and New York Times have all the details.  Also, EMI is the only "big four" music company with an environmental policy, at least that I was able to find.  According to their own figures they've reduced CO2 emissions from factories by about two thirds in 10 years.  However, they haven't made much of a dent in CO2 emissions from shipping.  One can only imagine what they could do if they were able to boost online music sales enough to actually manufacture and ship fewer CDs. EMI has also made significant reductions in hazardous waste, water use, and HCFCs (ozone depleting chemicals). One can only hope these numbers are as good as they seem.

License Music without DRM Restrictions, refocus on the environment

First of all the big four music companies should totally license music to online music stores without the DRM restriction. Jobs's points in Thoughts on Music are well made that the DRM requirement is stifling a huge potential for sales. While they're at it, they should make album artwork available in PDF format and make digital music available in a variety of audio qualities which can carry a modest price difference. In short they should do everything they can to make digital music truly competitive with CDs. However, more than anything I'd like to see the debate about digital music shift away from DRM and technological compatibility issues, and toward the environment. Read on to see what I'm thinking about.

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Steve Jobs on DRM-Free Music

Wow, talk about confluence. Just after posting about how great eMusic is, Steve Jobs releases a statement endorsing DRM-free music. When I wrote that hopefully we'll see other companies follow in eMusic's path I never thought Apple would be among the first. Here are some highlights, but I do recommend reading the whole statement, it's very readable and very interesting. Ok, now the highlights:

Though the big four music companies require that all their music sold online be protected with DRMs, these same music companies continue to sell billions of CDs a year which contain completely unprotected music.

Imagine a world where every online store sells DRM-free music encoded in open licensable formats. In such a world, any player can play music purchased from any store, and any store can sell music which is playable on all players. This is clearly the best alternative for consumers, and Apple would embrace it in a heartbeat. If the big four music companies would license Apple their music without the requirement that it be protected with a DRM, we would switch to selling only DRM-free music on our iTunes store.

...the music companies are selling over 90 percent of their music DRM-free, what benefits do they get from selling the remaining small percentage of their music encumbered with a DRM system? There appear to be none.


The question is, how can we convince the big four music companies to license their music without the DRM requirement? Oh I know...

eMusic and DRM-Free Music


Whenever I see a new article about the RIAA or CD prices I just roll my eyes, thanks to eMusic. With so many lousy music services out there, it's so nice to see one actually done right. For those unfamiliar with eMusic, it's a subscription based music download service, but you don't have to keep subscribing to listen to the music you download. That's because eMusic songs come in DRM free MP3 format that play on anything from iPods, to Zunes, to cellphones. The basic plan starts at $9.99 for 30 downloads per month, so it works out to about $0.33 a song. But the real reason I wanted to write about eMusic is that it's the first major (legal) experiment in DRM-free downloads and it appears to be working. So hopefully, we'll see eMusic's catalog increase and other download services follow in its path. I've been a member for about a year now and it's fantastic. EMusic only offers independent music, so while it's fine for me it's definitely not for everyone. They have a particularly good collection of underground hip-hop, which really keeps me happy. My only real complaints are that eMusic is not all that helpful in finding new music, and I really hate that I can't preview songs in my browser. Also, there really aren't as many user reviews and ratings as I'd like. They should really have some reward for reviewing and rating music, like 2 additional monthly downloads for every album you download and review. Oops, that one just slipped out.

Anyways, if anyone wants to try out eMusic leave a comment and I'll send you a link for free 25 downloads.

Environmental Impact of NASCAR


Several months ago I heard an interesting piece on NPR about a new study concluding that Hollywood was among biggest polluters in LA. Which makes sense, as building elaborate sets and shooting in remote locations is going to consume a lot of materials and energy. However, after listening to the story I couldn't help but wonder about the environmental impact of another form of popular American entertainment: NASCAR. While I feel as though I'm doing my part by minimizing my driving, it all seems trivial when NASCAR runs about 35 races a season, each with about 50 cars, getting about 5 miles per gallon, for 500 or so miles. That's about 1 million miles at 5 mpg, not even counting practices. This probably won't happen anytime soon, but NASCAR teams should be able to earn points by increasing their fuel efficiency. Such a move would be a great thing not only for the environment but for the progress and perception of fuel efficient vehicles.

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YouTube for Audio


I've seen a couple major blogs use YouTube just to stream audio, which really begs the question why can't you just upload an audio file to YouTube? Read on for what such a web app could be like.

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