December 27, 2005

Wanna a tiny tablet? Pretty good deal!

I almost bought it - a 2.75 lb Fujitsu Lifebook tablet PC. It is the floor model, last one left - Fry's Palo Alto for $1599. They were willing to give me $100 off. Has all accessories, no box. Unfortunately, I had in my mind a discount of somewhere closer to 15% though. So, I had to walk away. Anyway, it is there if anyone wants it.

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Wordpres -> Wordpress 2.0 released

Perhaps it is finally time to switch. You can download Wordpress 2.0 here. The themes are refreshing. Interestingly, the claim to be "the largest self-hosted blogging tool in the world". Finally, it is open-source, PHP and MySQL. How is MT to survive? The lead developers are Ryan Boren and Matthew Mullenweg. What's the business model? Sheer generosity? Impact to the world? This is the interesting scoop. It's not like MySQL, where the corps are paying for support. Boren works for Cisco.

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December 19, 2005

Free Space Optical - 72 km, 500 Mbps

Found what I was looking for - thanks to the Naval Research Laboratory. Moore et al. used a 1550-nm laser operating at 2.5 W to achieve an effective one-way link distance of 72 km. Recall that the Canon device achieves approximately 1 Gbps over about 1 km using a 11 mW laser. So, using a more powerful laser, here, 200x, gives a 72x improvement in range.

Posted by torque at 12:15 AM | Comments (179) | TrackBack

An open source 10 Mbps optical link

Spotted on an engadget comment: "Ronja is a free technology project of reliable optical data link with current range 1.4km and current communication speed 10Mbps full duplex."

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December 18, 2005

Free Space Optics of the Mbps and Gbps variety

Not much is new under the sun, but what has been around, keeps getting better. Communication via free space optics has been around for literally ages - remember the signal fire lit above Minas Tirith to call Rohan for help. Probably about 1 bpm. Enter the latest generation of laser-based free space optical network: LightPointe's FlightStrata boasts 1.25 Gbps! You might be wondering why my mind has been hovering on these matters - I've been trying to come up with a backup scheme for my office network involving free space optics and a shed some distance away...

Oliver Rist and Brian Chee have a nice article on this popular-in-the-city option. Especially useful are price ranges for these devices - often hard to get without signing yourself up for a lifetime of spam. They review seven solutions from four different vendors: Adtran, Canon, LightPointe and Orthogon. I've heard of Canon and LightPointe, but not the other two (probably because they are microwave - not optical*). Prices range from about $10-30K for an end-to-end link - with a variety of options. At the highest bit rates, as you can imagine, atmospheric adjustment is involved.

*From a physics standpoint - it's all EM...

This is what you want to know:

ModelTechnologyRangeMax bit rateCost per link
Adtran 50455.8 GHz microwave25 mi90 Mbps$14,000
Adtran Tracer 64205.8 GHz microwave30 mi16.4 Mbps$12,000
Canon Canobeam DT-110Optical1.2 mi1.25 Gbps$14,200
LightPointe FlightLite 100Optical w/ RF backup.3 mi100 Mbps$7,500
LightPointe FlightStrata GOptical (4-beam)2.1 mi1.25 Gbps$28,990
Orthogon Gemini5.8 GHz microwave124 mi33.6 Mbps$11,990
Orthogon Spectra5.8 GHz microwave124 mi300 Mbps$20,000

Wait, 124 mi is really far!

Incidentally, all of these, I believe, are license-free. The Canon product uses a wimpy 11 mW eye-safe infrared laser. I wonder how much more range you can get by swapping it out for a "real" laser and leaving the modulation stuff intact.

Canobeam's optical beam transmission technology is reliable, secure and engineered for maximum safety. According to the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), the worldwide advisory agency responsible for eye safety guidelines, Canobeam's laser transmitters are designated as "IEC Class 1M" eye safe, or in other words, safe when viewed by the naked eye. (IEC/EN 60825-1/A2:2001 Class 1M; FDA Laser Notice.50)
And then, the best line:
"It is not recommended to view the light using magnifying objects such as binoculars at the point of output."

Posted by torque at 10:45 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Adsense revenue and comment spam

There is definitely a positive correlation between comment spam and adsense revenue.

Posted by torque at 10:37 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 8, 2005

Cool Christmas gifts

  1. You already know #1, it's iRobot's fabulous Roomba. Been waiting for this since the Jetsons first came out. I recommend the Discovery model. I was not exactly sure why the Electrolux Trilobite (a related product) is so expensive ($1,590.00 v. $249.99). Fortunately, Brian Summers has a answer: bump and IR sensors v. radar/sonar mapping.
  2. The History Channel's presentation (DVD) of the Crusades - The Crusades: Crescent & The Cross ($20.99). Slightly overdramatic, definitely educational and not boring. The story is told from the perspective of historians from both sides. Well done.
  3. Portable storage. Yes, you could use your iPod, but what if you don't have one and don't care for one? I recommend the Sandisk 2 gb Cruzer ($127.29).
  4. How about a massage cushion? HoMedics has one for $98.75. It is excellent - a light-year improvement over the massage chairs 5-10 years ago. I know because a co-worker of mine just got one - and kindly left it on the company couch.
  5. Glow-in-the-dark stars ($8.99 and up). Always a nice touch.
  6. We recently purchased a set of 4-quart chafing dishes ($25) from Costco for a party. It works really well. I'm not really sure why we didn't think of it earlier. Food stays piping hot. The only thing I would be careful of is the fuel - a methyl alcohol gel. Don't breathe it and keep it off your skin - definitely far away from kids. A stellar gift for folk that entertain.
  7. For the writer, gel pens in extra-fancy metallic colors ($7.99). The sort of thing that most could probably never justify buying, but would be glad to receive.
  8. A real koto ($2100). Ok, ok, maybe a CD is more reasonable. How about Nanae Yoshimura's 2-volume Art of the Koto ($15.95 x2)?
  9. Legos of any quantity. Good for kids and grown-ups too.
  10. Last but not least, a lint remover. Something electronic is probably not necessary - I would go with the classic magic lint remover ($6.75).
Update: Visit my list of cool christmas gifts for 2006!

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Top picks for sweets in 2005

Both from Costco - chocolate macaroons and the fancy granola.

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December 4, 2005


The kids and I went hunting for a Scooba at Fry's today. No go - not even close. Here's the deal. First, you have to pre-order it (at $399.99). According to Niall Kennedy, it isn't even going to be released before January. However, if you order before December 15, you will get a "special gift" along with an announcement for the recipient.

They have a hilarious entry in the FAQs on the topic:

Will Scooba ship in time for 2005 holiday delivery?
We anticipate that Scooba will be available to ship at the end of December 2005. [emphasis mine]
Why can't they just say "I'm sorry, we blew it - we are going to completely miss Christmas!" This is doubly bad. I've been holding out for the Scooba since June - the chance of spending money on a Roomba knowing that the Scooba is around the corner is pretty slim. The chance of purchasing the Scooba immediately following release is also pretty slim, since Christmas pressure will have come and gone. This last little factoid means it is probably a good time to start tracking IRBT stock*. The technology seems pretty solid, led by good pedigree - if only they had been able to capture the holidays. That will come with experience.

*No, I don't own any... at the time of this post.

Posted by torque at 11:20 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Looking for a good shoe rack design

Whoa, this shoe rack rocks. A smart design by the j-me team. Made using stainless steel, durability is no issue. My biggest concern would be someone cutting their ankle on it...

Posted by torque at 2:39 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack