Resistive Multi-Touch Screens from Stantum


Long time readers know my interest in multi-touch technology, so I find these 2.5” and 3.5” resistive multi-touch from Stantum screens irresistible.  Stantum is a French company, and parent company of JazzMutant which makes the Lemur, a programmable multi-touch mixer used by musicians like Thom Yorke.  Stantum's new cell-phone sized multi-touch screens use resistive touch detection, but are much more precise and responsive than current resistive touchscreens.  The screens can detect many simultaneous finger touches, finger pressure, and even accurately respond to tools like paintbrushes.  Because the screens use resistive touch technology they should be less expensive to produce than capactivie touch screens and do not require a glass front which can be cracked or broken.  The only downside I see to Stantus multi-touch screens is the controller card, which is is pretty large at about 2" x 1.25".  I'm not sure if the entire card is required to run the screen, but hopefully the necessary internals can be shrinked to single chip, because I don’t think your iPhone or G1 has room for that whole card.

Stantum via Engadget with a videos!

Lipton Improves the Tea Bag


You see that little gap in the top of the tea bag, right by the string? At first I thought it was a manufacturing error, like the glue machine missed a spot. But after getting an whole box of Lipton tea with the identical gap I started to think it wasn't an accidental. Finally I realized the little gap isn't a defect, it's a design improvement. You see a normal teabag can actually trap air inside, and you end up with an air bubble in your teabag instead of water filtering through. That little gap in the top of the Lipton tea bag allows air to escape so more water can pass through the leaves. Pretty clever. This is my first box of Lipton tea in ages, so I have no clue how long their bags have been like this.

Netflix streaming to your TV


Netflix and Roku recently announced a little $99 box that connect to your TV and enables Netflix subscriber to stream videos right to their TV.  Best of all, Netflix is offering unlimited streaming along with any subscription plan over $8.99 per month.  I have to say, I think Netflix and Roku really nailed this one.  The price-point is perfect, I think many Netflix subscribers won't think twice about buying one.  Also, even if Netflix's streaming inventory is a bit small right now, it's only going to get bigger, plus streaming is FREE.  The big surprise for me was that the Netflix Player doesn't offer the core feature that Roku pioneered: streaming your iTunes music to your stereo.  I won't be at all surprised if future versions of the Netflix player allow you to browse and play your iTunes library on your TV and audio setup.  Which will further pit the Netflix player against the Apple TV.  For more on this read on...

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Windows Vista Volume Mixer - Nice...


Wow. Windows Vista's volume mixer allows you to control the volume of individual applications (including Windows Sounds).  This could be a great solution for finally silencing websites that play music and other annoying sounds.  I really haven't been keeping up with Vista, but this is one feature that really makes me want it.  There's an application for Windows XP called IndieVolume ($24.95), I'm not sure if there's anything like this for OS X.

Recycled Energy Development - Turning Waste Factory Heat into Useable Energy

RED - Recycled Energy Development, has proven methods for converting the heat that normally goes out factory smokestacks into useful energy.  Here's how it works:

We basically use the heat to boil water and make steam, we use the steam to drive a turbine, ... and the turbine drives an electric generator.

The energy can power the factory itself or be fed into the energy grid to power homes. RED estimates that if all the waste heat from US factories and plants were captured it could make up 20% of US energy use, which is roughly the same as 120 coal-fired power plants.  That could mean that the US wouldn't need any new coal fired plants, and some existing plants could be taken offline, creating a huge reduction in CO2 emissions as well as other pollutants.  If factories can reduce their energy costs, or even make a profit by selling their energy back into the grid, overall manufacturing costs could go down dramatically.  That could mean more manufacturing jobs could stay in the US.  This is one of those ideas that's so good it's almost frustrating.  I strongly recommend downloading the Living On Earth interview with RED chairman, Thomas R. Casten.  He discusses some of the challenges with electric congeneration efficiency in the U.S.   One of my favorites Quotes in the interview:

CASTEN: I'm an environmentalist who tries to make my living as a capitalist. I want to have those rules be as cost effective and as environmentally effective as possible. My larger comment is that global warming is such a huge problem; it's hard to believe we're going to solve it if our only answer is that people must make sacrifices. We're offering an approach that profitably reduces greenhouse gases and that's much easier to persuade people to do - to go improve their own economic lot and do good. We just need to be a little smarter about how we're doing these things.

RED - Recycled Energy Development via Living On Earth (Download the entire Podcast or just the RED segment)

iTunes Shopping Now on Apple TV


With all the buzz around the MacBook Air, I totally forgot that it's now possible to shop (and rent!) from iTunes using the Apple TV.  Back when the Apple TV was first announced I was pretty disappointed and surprised that it couldn't shop on iTunes, but the new Apple TV software gives pretty much total access to the iTunes Store (movies, music, podcasts, etc).  Now you no longer need a computer to shop on iTunes, and the new software download is for all Apple TVs.  The Apple TV still doesn't offer iPod connectivity which seems really weird.

Finally a MacBook under 5lbs: The MacBook Air


Apple's brand new ultra-portable notebook, the MacBook Air, was just announced at MacWorld.  The Air, like the normal Macbook, sports a 13.3" screen and a full size keyboard, but at just 3 lbs it's 2 lbs lighter than the MacBook.  Also, the trackpad supports several new multi-touch gestures, like the pinch-zoom gesture.  Looks like multi-touch is slowly appearing in more and more Apple products.  The Air seems like a great machine that will finally satisfy customers who have been eager for a Mac under 5 lbs (something which has been conspicuously absent since the MacBook).  The Air lacks an internal optical drive, but there is a new external Apple SuperDrive for $99.  Also, the battery is not removable, which is already drawing some criticism.  With the Air, it looks like Apple will have to replace the battery for you (for $129).  Hopefully, Apple Stores will even do the replacement.

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Bluetooth A2DP Reciever with iPod Dock Connectivity


This is probably really old, but it's still cool.  The Anycom Bluetooth Music Station Converter is an A2DP audio receiver with an iPod dock connector, so it can connect to any iPod speaker set or dock.  With this little gadget you can easily stream audio from a computer with Bluetooth (like a Mac running Leopard) to a iPod speaker set (like the Bose SoundDock).  And at just $50, it's a pretty good alternative to AirTunes if you already have a Bluetooth computer and iPod speaker dock.  It's available from Sprint but it should work with any A2DP Bluetooth device.

Product Page

Amazon Kindle, an all-in-one wireless reader


Amazon recently released the Kindle ($399), an electronic reader that can wirelessly download books without a computer.  Once you buy a Kindle there are no service contracts or recurring fees and you can shop Amazon's selection of books, magazines, newspapers and blogs right from the Kindle.  The Kindle has a 6" electronic ink display that sips power and offers a reading experience very similar to paper.  The Kindle is definitely a breakthrough device and it's already being compared to the iPod.  But if the Kindle is the iPod of reading, where's the iTunes of reading?

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YouTube for Audio, Reprise


One of the top search terms that land people here at They Should Do That is "YouTube for Audio."  It turns out that there are a handful of services out there that pretty much do exactly what I proposed in my original entry.  I haven't actually used any of these, but they all seem to make creating a podcast and embedding audio into a webpage pretty easy.


Gas Pumps with Google Maps


These new gas pumps with access to Google maps are pretty much the coolest thing I've seen in a while. I wonder if you can use Google Maps without buying gas.

Image from

A2DP Support Now In Leopard, Could an Apple Bluetooth Audio Gateway Be Far Behind?

The newest version of Apple's OS X, Leopard, finally brings A2DP support to the Mac.  A2DP is a technology that allows audio to be wirelessly streamed from a device, like a computer or cell phone, to a set of speakers or your home stereo.  One can only expect that A2DP support will soon be coming to the iPhone too.  Apple was a pioneer of wireless music when it created AirTunes, a nifty feature of it's Airport Express Base Station that enabled iTunes music to be played over your wireless network.  But now that Leopard supports A2DP, it seems very possible that Apple will create it's own Bluetooth Audio Gateway.

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Dell (finally) makes an All-in-One


Looks like Dell is jumping on the all-in-one bandwagon with the XPS One.  The new system, just leaked by the FCC, features a 22" display, an optional TV tuner and it looks like a wireless keyboard, wireless mouse and remote are included standard.  Also, it looks there's a little trackpad right on the keyboard which is just perfect when is very handy when you're short on space or using the keyboard from your lap.

[FCC via Gizmodo via PC Joint]

Design at HP gets an Upgrade

Great article in Fast Company about HP's first-ever VP of Design, Sam Lucente.  Lucente is consolidating and simplifying all of HPs design efforts around a consistent design "attitude."  He's also working to ensure HP no longer duplicates it's design (and production) efforts.  He's proposed a single logo that can be used on any product as well as a single navigation control to replace the dozens (or hundreds) currently in use.

Streamlining HP [Fastcompany]

Gateway One Innovates the Power Brick


The Gateway One has a hot all-in-one design, but of all it's cool features, I'm most impressed with the power brick.  It includes 4 USB ports, an Ethernet port, and even audio out, so you don't have to plug all the peripherals you always use directly into the computer.  Somehow Gateway took a normally offensive hunk of hardware and actually made it useful.  Other cool features: a built-in TV-tuner on the top model, standard DVD burner, remote, wireless keyboard and mouse standard, and an easily accessible bay for a second hard drive.  Kind-of-lame features: the display is only 19", processor speeds top out at 2 GHz, the webcam isn't built-in.

Gateway One (via Gizmodo

Chevy Volt: GM's new electric car


GM might actually bring back the electric car with the Chevy Volt. The Volt features a lithium battery that gives the car a 40 mile range, more than most people drive in a day. The car can then be plugged in and fully recharges in about 6 and a half hours. But, what really makes the car unique is the small on-board internal combustion engine which can recharge the battery as you drive. By utilizing this additional engine, driving range between fill-ups could be as much as 640 miles. Quite frankly, I'm really impressed with the Volt, I think GM, or perhaps I should say BobLutz , got it right. However, I am surprised by the aggressive appearance of the Volt. The big wheels and angular look makes it look like a modern muscle car, it actually looks a lot like the newCamero. In some ways that approach seems totally wrong, given how hybrids are distinguished by their cute and aerodynamic design. But that might be the point, after all people who are really into energy efficiency will probably buy the car no matter what it looks like ( insight). But for the people who were turned off by the somewhat toy-look appearance of many fuel efficient vehicles, the Volt might just what they're looking for. Again, I think GM got it right.

$100 Store Credit for iPhone Early Adopters

Faster than you can say "they should do that," Steve Jobs to the rescue. Read the full response here.

Lots of New iPods


Apple announced lots of new iPods yesterday.  I think this is the first time that Apple has released new iPod while their annual student promotion is still active.  The biggest news is the iPod Touch, which is an iPod with a multi-touch screen and WIFI for web browsing.  Like a lot of people, I'm pretty psyched about the iPod Touch but also wish it offered more than 16GB capacity.  I'm also a bit baffled, by the iPod Classic; 80GB and 160GB iPod seems like overkill for most people.  And while that much storage is probably great for movies, the little 2.5" screen is not.  I fully expected that when Apple finally made a multi-touch iPod that it would be high capacity, and just be called "iPod."  However, it's very likely that an iPod with a big multi-touch screen AND a hard drive would AND WIFI would have suffered from really awful battery performance.  I can't wait to try out the iPod Touch when it shows up in stores, but I might just wait until they bump up the storage.

My Nokia N770


A couple weeks ago I bought a Nokia N770 from Woot for about $130.  The N770 is a pocket size web browser that connects to the web via WIFI.  It has a 4.1" touchscreen that delivers as surprisingly good surfing experience that really rivals a full PC.  It handles lots of web browsing tasks just fine, including Gmail, Google Maps, Google Talk and so on.  But easily the two best things about the N770 are it's price and the size.  The N770 has plenty of shortcomings, it's Flash support is a few versions behind, so it can't play YouTube or Pandora.  Also, the processor is pretty underpowered, which can cause some performance hiccups, and the virtual keyboard and handwriting recognition are really lousy.  But for price and the convenience of a web browser I can stash in the glove compartment of my car and start up in less than a minute, it's problems become forgivable.   Still, for a little more money, I'd much rather have the ASUS EEE PC or, of course, an iPhone...

You can still pick up an N770 for about $145 from

The Other iPod Halo Effect


Something often attributed to Apple's astonishing growth is the "iPod Halo Effect" which is the idea that lots of people who bought iPods will buy other Apple product because they like the iPod so much.  But there's another iPod Halo Effect at work that's reaching beyond Apple to the entire technology industry.  The other iPod Halo Effect is that technology companies are finally realizing that customers want attractive, easy to use products, that interface seamlessly with their computers and, furthermore, that all new products need to be expertly marketed.  The effects of this newfound interest in design can already be seen.  Belkin has released a steady stream of new computer accessories with compelling designs, like the laptop@home products designed by Mike and Maaike and their line of attractive surge protectors.  Also, Microsoft's Zune is another great example.  With the Zune Microsoft abandoned their normal strategy of making the software platform and letting other companies make the hardware.  Instead Microsoft created the Zune device as well as the Zune software and music store to deliver a much more cohesive user experience (at least in theory).  Dell and HP have even stepped up their advertising with some pretty sweet tv spots.  Dell also is ramping up their design capabilities, as evidenced with the new M1330.  In this interview with Vio Luminosu, one of Dell's lead industrial designers, he says:

we've built up our internal design department we have a stronger goal and a stronger focus on design within our group

Of course companies trying to match Apple's product design may still find it difficult without also making some serious changes to how they approach hardware.  One of the reasons Apple is able to execute such attractive and specific designs is that many of the components inside Apple's devices are custom manufactured just for Apple.  Companies like Dell and HP, for instance, typically just design their own enclosures for someone someone else's hardware, which is often the same hardware used by countless other companies.  That can make it difficult to achieve a unique appearance, feature set or sleek form factor.  Of course, the M1330 is good indication that we may see Dell begin to change all that, and hopefully the M1330 will work as good as it looks.  Also, while Microsoft's XBOX 360 looks great and is a leader in the current generation of game consoles, it's also suffering from terrible hardware failure rates.  Microsoft made a big splash with Surface, but it's bulky hardware is destined to be upstaged by something thinner and more advanced.  While hiring great industrial designers designers, user interface designers, experience designers, and marketing companies is a great first step, many tech companies will also need to increase their hardware capabilities so that the are able to support the vision of the designers and marketers they hire.

Pandora Town Hall


Last week I attended a "Get Together" event for Pandora users.  Pandora is an internet radio station that allows users to create their own channel based on a particular song or artist, then Pandora plays similar music.  As each song plays you can give it a "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" which helps Pandora learn what kind of music to play.  It's really a lot of fun to use and it's great for background music and for finding new artists.  Also, Pandora is free.  Tim Westergren, the founder of Pandora, ran the event and he essentially told stories about how Pandora started and took questions from the audience...for over 2 hours.  The experience was absolutely amazing.  We were able to get direct responses to questions, new feature requests, problems, and even details about the pending legislation in congress that could hike the licensing cost of music for internet radio stations and shut services like Pandora down.  But more than anything, the event made all us listeners feel really important.  Quite frankly, I can't think of too many more effective ways to build a brand and create customer evangelists than events like this.  More companies should find ways to reach out to their customers/users directly and personally.

Google Briefcase and Google Gears


Every few weeks I dive into my site reports and check out how my hits are doing and what searches land visitors here.  Much to my surprise among the top search terms is "Google Briefcase."  My basic idea with Google Briefcase was for a desktop application that automatically saves your recent e-mails, documents, spreadsheets, and calendar events to your computer so you can access them when you're not online.  Originally I thought Google Briefcase could be a bit like Outlook or Palm Desktop, with different functions that correspond to the different Google services it interfaces with.  Or perhaps, it could manage synchronization and there would be full client side versions of Gmail, Calendar, and Docs & Spreadsheets.  But that all changed when I found out about Google Gears.  Google Gears is a browser extension (for Firefox and IE) that enables web apps to run offline in the browser.  Presumably this method would be a much more minimal development effort than creating full blown client-side versions of web applications.  Google Reader already works with Gears and they should totally develop Gmail, Docs & Spreadsheets, and Calendar to work with Google Gears next.  I can't wait to edit my Google Documents without a web connection, or look up an address or phone number I conveniently only have in my Gmail...

Big Price Reduction at Roku


Roku, one of my favorite companies (whose products I don't own) cut the prices of all their products.   The Roku SoundBridge (above) is a little device that allows you to navigate and play you entire iTunes library on your home speaker system wirelessly.  The SoundBridge wirelessly accesses your iTunes library, just like other computers running iTunes can play from each other's libraries.  Best of all the SoundBridge includes a display and remote for navigating all those tunes as well as basic playback functions; no running to your computer to skip a track like with AirTunes.  The SoundBridge can also play internet radio stations, and now the base model is only $79, I think about a year ago it was double that.  They also make the SoundBridge Radio which is basically table radio with all the SoundBridge functionality, so you don't need a separate speakers set.  The SoundBridge Radio is now $299 (down from $399).  I really hope this isn't a sign of desperation.  I always thought Bose and Roku would be great partners, maybe if Roku really is in trouble Bose will buy them out.

Asus EEE PC First Look


Notebook Review recently got a little hands on with the ASUS EEE PC.  Much to my surprise, it will sport an impressive 900MHz Intel processor.  The demo unit was running Linux which started up in about 10 second and shutdown in about 5 thanks to the flash based memory.  It seems the price has crept up to about $250 for the 8GM model (which is still damn impressive), and it should still be available in late August.  The Linux operating system includes basic office applications for editing and creating documents, spreadsheets, and presentations, as well as Firefox and a PDF viewer.  Also, much to my delight, theres an icon for Google documents!  Wow, this is honestly the first gadget that's come out in a long time that I'm not only really excited about, but is actually in my price range.

Asus Eee PC First Thoughts []

Tivoli NetWorks: Radios with Wi-Fi, maybe AirTunes?


Since my very first entry here, I've been waiting for someone, anyone to come out with a compact high quality speaker system that works with AirTunes.  Today Gizmodo broke the story of NetWorks and NetWorksGo, two new radios from Tivoli Audio with built-in Wi-Fi.  It seems these devices will definitely be able to stream internet radio over a wireless network.  But I'm really hoping that these devices will work with AirTunes.  That will enable all us iTunes users to seamlessly play our music on the device without installing any additional software.  Of course one limitation of using AirTunes might be that pausing or skipping tracks from the device might not be possible.  However, that's probably an acceptable limitation for most people.  I'd also love to see a device like this based on the iYiYi, that would just be the best of everything.

Zune Finally Installed!


Woohoo, I was finally able to install the Zune Software! I've played around with the app just a tad, and so far I like it a lot more than I thought I would. It's clean, snappy and attractive. Read for a short rundown of the installation problems, and some quick ideas of how the installer might be able to avoid this problem in the future.

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The $199 Laptop from Asus I want NOW


The $199 Asus EEE 701 laptop may just give the OLPC's XO a run for it's money.  Set to be available in August, the EEE reportedly will run Windows XP or Linux and has handy features like Wi-Fi and a webcam right above the screen like a MacBook.  I also read that the EEE will have a built-in SD card reader, but I haven't been able to verify this.  Honestly, the EEE is pretty much the device I've been waiting for: an inexpensive laptop for web browsing and blogging.  Here's the spec list from Asus:

CPU & Chipset: Intel mobile CPU & chipset
OS: Linux/ Microsoft Windows XP compatible
Communication: 10/100 Mbps Ethernet; 56K modem
WLAN: WiFi 802.11b/g
Graphic: Intel UMA
Memory: 512MB, DDR2-400
Storage: 4/ 8/ 16GB Flash
Webcam: 300K pixel video camera
Audio: Hi-Definition Audio CODEC; Built-in stereo speaker; Built-in microphone
Battery Life: 3hrs (4 cells: 5200mAh, 2S2P)
Dimension & Weight: 8.85 x 6.5 x .82~1.3 in, 2lbs

It's amazing how just by making a laptop lightweight and cheap adds to
usefulness and versatility of a laptop.  Read on to understand what I mean.

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Bill and Steve: The Historic Interview

Check out the historic interview of Bill Gates and Steve Job from the "All Things Digital" conference, courtesy of I was shocked at the number of times I laughed out loud while watching these interviews. Both Bill and Steve came out huge winners in this interview.

MTV's The State Now Available on iTunes


The first season of The State is now available on iTunes! Hopefully this will pave the way for Mr. Show, Upright Citizens Brigade, and other great sketch comedy from back in the day being added to iTunes as I proposed in one of my first posts. I've already downloaded the episodes and can't wait for more to be added.

HP TouchSmart, the Touchscreen PC You Don't Have to Wait For


In case you haven't figured it out I'm looking forward to all screens becoming touchscreens.  So I was totally shocked when the HP TouchSmart PC totally snuck under my radar.  The HP TouchSmart IQ770 is an all in one computer with a 19" touchscreen, built-in web cam, memory card reader, and wireless keyboard and mouse.  It even has a built-in TV tuner, DVR functionality and a remote control.  You can also you can dock an HP Photosmart printer on the TouchSmart for a real all-in-one experience.  The TouchSmart is being marketed as the perfect family computer for the kitchen or living room.  It has a cool customizable home screen that can deliver weather, traffic, notes, a family scheduler, and photo organizer, all of which can be driven with the touch of the finger or the included stylus.  The touchscreen interface is really perfect for a family computer to keep organizational drudgery easy and even fun.  Most people probably just accept using a mouse as part of the experience of using a computer, but it's easy to imagine how eliminating it could make using a computer more immediate and direct.  After all, with the the TouchSmart it would be much easier to use the computer while standing up or doing other things.  And the elimination of the mouse, reduces the amount of space needed for the device.  In fact, I'm a little surprised the keyboard doesn't also have built-in trackpad for the same reason.  I'm totally blown away by the TouchSmart, in many ways it's what the iMac should be by now, however I do wish it were a tad smaller and could be VESA mounted. Overall, Bravo HP!  You can be my PC anytime :)

HP TouchSmart IQ770 PC

Wal-Mart Embraces Solar Power


It's official Wal-Mart will install solar panel systems on 22 sites in California and Hawaii.  The solar panels will be provided by BP Solar, SunEdison LLC, and PowerLight, a subsidiary of SunPower Corporation.  Here are some highlights from the press release:

The solar power pilot project is a major step toward Wal-Mart’s goal of being supplied by 100 percent renewable energy.  Each solar power generating system installed can provide up to 30 percent of the power for the store on which it is installed.  By Wal-Mart’s estimates, installing the solar power systems will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 6,500-10,000 metric tons per year.

Also, as the recent CNET article points out:

Because of Wal-Mart's size, its investments in solar power could have a significant financial impact for solar providers.

So if Wal-Mart eventually goes all out with solar installations across all their stores, they could drive the price of solar panels way down.  Gotta love those economies of scale...

Cable Labels


I was going to write a clever little entry explaining this idea, but I think the image pretty much does a better job.  They should totally label the connector end of the cable so you A) don't unplug the wrong cable and B) know what that the cable is for, years after the gadget is long gone.  Also, for devices that use generic cables like AV equipment, or printers the manufacturer should include adhesive labels with the product name that the user can stick to cable.  Lastly, some one (or some company) could print up adhesive labels with the names of common devices (iPod, keyboard, mouse, TV, VCR, DVD) that the user can just stick on the cable or plug.  However, while most people would probably find it useful, they probably wouldn't be willing to pay for the labels.

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Electronic Paper Displays, they're here but not quite there yet


Since first reading about electronic paper displays developed by E-Ink, I've eagerly awaited their arrival.  Electronic paper displays are readable from any angle, high resolution, incredibly thin, use extremely little power, and can even be flexible.  Currently the displays are grayscale, and text appears in black on a white background.  Also once something is displayed on the screen it stays there without using any power; energy is only needed to change the image.

All those attributes make the displays perfect for a new breed of devices: electronic document readers, like Sony's E-Book reader.  The hope is that e-book readers can replace everything from printed books to newspapers.  Imagine going on a vacation with a dozen novels and travel guides all in one in compact device.  Less paper bulk isn't just convenient for you, it's also great for the environment.  The potential for signage is also huge, imagine a posted train schedule that looks just like paper but can be changed instantaneously, inexpensively, all with minimal energy use.

However, there's a significant downside to these displays: the refresh rate is between 1000ms and 500ms (or 1 second and .5 seconds).  That's at best about about 100 times slower than an LCD display.  That may be acceptable for an electronic book or signage, but until the refresh rate is dramatically decreased we may not see electronic paper displays in many PDAs, smart phones, and other gadgets that need really snappy interfaces.

I had originally thought that electronic paper displays were a perfect fit for the MedTab, a PDA for medical professionals, but with such a slow refresh rate it now seems like the device has the potential to annoy a lot of busy and impatient doctors.

The Illiad by iRex, another device using electronic paper displays, has pen and tablet capabilities.  Which is a great feature, especially for those of us who like to make notes in the margins of our books.  But I cannot imagine writing on a surface that takes (at best) half a second to display what I just wrote; it would be maddening., Microfinancing Made Easy


Microfinancing is the little idea that's making a big impact to help reduce poverty.  And makes it easy for anyone to get involved.  Founded and run by in impressive list of Silicon Valley celebrities, allows anyone to make a loan to an entrepreneur in the developing world.  The businesses, like the loans, are small, but the impact is tremendous.  Browsing the site you'll find everything from a grocery store owner in Cambodia, to a baker in the Dominican Republic.  All the business are verified by field agents from microfinancing institutes, and currently 100% of loans have been paid back.  The loan can be transferred via PayPal, which has waived their typical transaction fee so that 100% of the loan goes to the entrepreneur.  I could go on about how inspiring this is, but if you have 15 minutes, I'd strongly recommend just watching this video clip from PBS's Frontline.

Thanks Rob!

Got Ideas? Here's where to send them


Dell may have made a big slash with IdeaStorm, but there are actually lots of places to submit product ideas.  So armchair inventors, get submitting:

Dell Ideas - Dell Idea Storm
Firefox Ideas - Firefox/Feature Brainstorming Wiki
Apple Ideas - Apple Feedback Forms
Video Game Ideas -
Everything Else -

Know of any more? Leave a comment.

Nevada Solar One


In undergrad I had a professor that thought that all of Nevada should be covered with photo-voltaic panels. Well, this 64 megawatt solar powerplant in Nevada doesn't use photo-voltaics but it will harness enough solar energy to power 15,000 homes. The project called Nevada Solar One uses parabolic mirrors aimed at a tube full of oil which heats the oil to make steam, which turns a turbine.

Full steam ahead for Nevada solar project (via

Web-Based Photo Editing with Picnik


Rumor has it that Adobe is readying a web-based version of Photoshop, which is nothing short of awesome.  But until it’s finally released there’s Picnik.   With Picnik you can perform basic image editing tasks like resizing, cropping, and exposure (levels!) and color correction.  It's all web based with great speed and compatibility across browsers and platforms thanks to its Flash based interface, and you don’t even need to create an account to use it. [via WebWare]

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.

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.

Witch, Window Switching on OS X Done Right


For any Windows users that are switching to Mac, or even OS X power users, Witch is an absolute life saver. Any long-time Windows user knows that the fastest way to switch applications or windows isn't the taskbar, it's good old Alt+Tab. However, to switchers the OS X equivalent doesn't quite cut it. Apple+Tab switches applications and Apple+` switches application windows. It’s two keyboard chords to do the work of one in Windows. But the real frustration, is that if the application window is minimized Apple+Tab (or Apple+`) doesn’t un-minimize it. Which is super annoying, why would anyone want to switch to an application and not see it? That's where Witch comes in. Witch is an application switcher AND a window switching in one handy keyboard chord. But best of all it will automatically un-minimize windows, it will even re-launch an application if it doesn’t have any windows (i.e. Finder). It uses a nice little heads-up display which lists all windows, plus it's very customizable (almost to the point of confusion). Read on for some handy customization tips for Windows Switchers.

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