WD Announces “Greener” HDs

From DailyTech:

Western Digital today announced a new line of hard drives with greater emphasis on power saving – GreenPower. Western Digital has new GreenPower drives for desktop, enterprise, consumer electronics and external applications. The new GreenPower drives claim power consumption reductions of up to 40%, resulting in $10 per drive, per year savings in actual power costs.

Read the full item here.


Logitech’s Nano Receiver Not Much Bigger Than a Pimple

We’re big fans of Logitech’s VX, their mouse designed for mobile computing. Its wireless USB receiver even stows inside of the mouse body for ease of transport (and so you don’t lose it in the linty recesses of your laptop bag). Even though the current receiver is small (smaller than a typical USB Flash drive), it’s still a significant protrusion on the side of your computer, and that leaves it venerable to getting knocked off, and maybe borking a USB port in the process.

Enter the new VX Nano, billed has having the world’s smallest USB receiver. Besides the USB A plug housing, there’s just enough material extending beyond the port to grab hold of. Really impressively tiny.

The VX Nano goes on sale at the end of next month. It will retail for US$70.


Cobbled Together Laptop Battery Backup

Here’s a MacGyver-ific battery hack. This fellow, looking at a 13-hour flight from Sydney to LA, decided to bodge up a backup power supply for his laptop. He took a 4 D-cell battery holder, sliced it in half and stretched it out to accommodate 20 cells. The whole thing was wrapped in cardboard and shipping tape. I cannot believe he got this thing through airport security. If I tried to take something like this on-board a plane, my nether cavities would never be the same. And I love how he gets on-board with such crude DIY device while this other fella doesn’t.

[Via hackAday]


Writing, Sans Vacuum

I’m a writer. I love my job. How could I not? I find things that interest me and then I convince magazine editors and book publishers to pay me to explore them.

But it’s not all a bohemian rhapsody. The pay can suck (and frequently does), and self-disciplining your time can prove an epic struggle.

And then there’s the silence. Writing is a solitary business (difficult for a social critter like myself). You can push pixels for months without hearing much of anything from your readers. And, people tend to only talk to you when they think you suck, and they’ll tell you just how much in the most excruciating detail (and purplest of prose). Positive feedback, beside the sparse “thanks,” “good job,” or “interesting article,” is hard to come by.

What redeems this sometimes vacuous process is the weight of the positives, when they come your way. I had a guy come up to me, after a talk years ago, who said that the Happy Mutant Handbook had literally saved his life. He’d decided to go through with the grim deed the coming weekend. But in the meantime, he’d happened upon the HMH in a bookstore, bought it and had spent the weekend reading, postponing his date with the big sleep by the hour. He ended up being so tickled, so inspired by the book, he’d decided not to off himself by the time he’d finished. And so, there he was, at the podium, thanking me for saving his life. This utterly stunned me, the idea that my work had, in even the smallest way, helped save the life of another human being. It made the months and years of little-to-no positive feedback well worth the wait. And then there was the guy who read my article in Wired on neural implant technologies (“The Desire to be Wired,” Wired, No. 4) and decided to go into neuro-surgery and electronic engineering. He’d emailed me a thanks some four years into his studies.

I may sound like I’m tooting my own horn here, but you have to understand, these are two stand-out positive examples in some 25 years of being a professional writer. There have been a few more, but not many. I got another one yesterday…

Michael Aherne emailed me back in October of last year. He was three years out of college, with a degree in engineering. He’d read my Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Building Robots and had been inspired. He’d been thinking about going back to school, about applying to Stanford for a Master’s degree in biomemetic robotics. He said that ABG to Building Robots had “brought out some of the best ingenuity and creative thinking” in him. He said he was going to apply to Stanford and hoped that three years of industry experience and his aptitude for robot building (as exemplified by the robot he built from my book) might be enough to get him into the school.

Well, I got email from him yesterday. He didn’t get into Stanford, but he did get into USC. He even sent me a photo of his admittance letter. He’s going to be studying space robotics. A hearty congrats, Micheal. From me and everybody here at Street Tech! Definitely let us know how it’s going and what sorts of bots you’re working on — writers like myself, sitting in the quiet of my cluttered backroom home office, live for such news. Seriously.

Here’s the photo of Micheal’s admittance letter:

And here’s the one-motor walker he built from my book (his name is Charlie):


Rebraining a Robosapien

Here’s a fairly well-documented rebraining of the Robosapien, done by students and teachers at University of Beira Interior in Portugal. They replaced the existing MCU with a Texas Instruments MSP430. The docs go through identifying the current hardware components and what it all does and then the rebraining. I’ve wondered how difficult such a thing would be. It doesn’t look trivial, but it’s clearly doable. They now plan to add a wireless comms capability, a digital signal processor (DSP) for handling voice commands, and to develop a Windows app for controlling the bot.

[Via Make]


Print Your Own Flashlight

Fab@Home has been experimenting with 3D printing of electrical circuits, with conductive silicone and conductive ink, and using epoxy as a structural material. They combine these efforts in fabbing a flashlight with an embedded super-bright orange LED.

Okay, so the results are a tad on the funky side, but it’s the innovation represented here that counts. They’ve come a long way from their initial efforts, such as this silicone watchband.


Own a Chunk of Personal Computer History

Our pal Jake von Slatt sent us this:

When the Boston Computer Society closed it’s doors in 1996 the company I worked for took over their office space.

Since I had been a member, I knew the important role this group played in the early years of personal computing so I cut the logo out of the drywall before the workers arrived to demolish the partitions for our new offices. This sign has hung in my office ever since.

At this point I’d like to replace it with something better reflecting my current mania and would like to give it to someone for which it has meaning.

If that’s you (and you’re in the Boston area) send me an email at jake.[at].vonslatt.[dot].com to arrange pickup.