February 7, 2007

This week I am highlighting a product that is a bit of an unsung hero. It doesn’t have the flash or charisma of a new cell phone or even a new camera. However, if you have a desktop computer and its contents are valuable to you, this is a must. It is called an Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS). It is basically a large battery that can power multiple devices in the event of a power outage. You see, computers don’t like it when you cut their power without allowing them to shut down properly. APC is the preeminent producer of UPS devices and this is a great deal on the APC® BX 1500. It provides 1500VA of power and surge protection of 420 joules across 8 power outlets. In the event of an outage, it will keep you powered up for approximately 110 minutes. It even includes APCs PowerChute Personal Edition Auto-Shutdown software that lets you set up your computer to automatically save work and shutdown if a power outage occurs while you are away from your machine. Normally listed at $150, OfficeDepot is now offering this unit for $99 with free next day delivery!
Ready or not, the first hard drives for cell phones are starting to appear. This week Seagate announced the DAVE (Digitial Audio Video Experience), a portable drive that has the ability to connect to your phone via Bluetooth and WiFi. The first iterations will come in 10GB and 20GB flavors with a wireless range of about 30 feet. Battery life comes in at a respectable 14 days of standby and 10 hours of use. Technologically I can understand and appreciate this idea, but practically, I’m not there yet. I mean carrying around a hard drive, albeit small, for extra audio or video storage, isn’t that called an iPod? Although thinking about how phones are increasingly capable of accessing the internet, it may be interesting to have the ability to download and view audio and video on the fly when you don’t have a computer. As cell phones become more and more powerful and carriers provide faster and faster connection speeds, this may become more common place.
Listen up you fashionistas, Prada has gotten together with LG and produced a true iPhone-ilicious new cell phone. This new Prada phone is based on LGs KE850 with the exterior and interface designed by the Italian fashion designer. The interface has been kept in high contrast black and white with the icons selectively fading in and out. Technologically speaking, this new phone measures 3 inches, has a 400×200 touch screen, support for video and audio playback, has a built-in 2 megapixel camera with a Schneider-Kreuznach lens, a microSD card slot, Macromedia Flash UI, EDGE Tri-Band (900/1800/1900) and Bluetooth 2.0. Here is a video showing the interface in action and some more pics showing it along with the tasty little holder. This beauty will first be debuted in Europe in late February with Asia following in March. It looks like the price will be in the $400 to $500 range. After the link, click the Launch button and be patient, it is high resolution and takes a bit to load.
One of the many differences that I remember since my first visit to Europe was their utilization of radiators. Whether they are being used to heat space or to warm or dry towels, they seemed to be everywhere. Although here in the US we realize that they are more efficient and healthier, we insist on sticking to that horrendous solution of forced hot air or even worse, those ugly, institutional baseboard units. Meanwhile in Europe, the radiator flourishes. Beyond the technological advances being made, some really creative and beautiful products continue to emerge in a plethora of materials, from some made of glass or ceramic to those that are true works of art . Continuing in that tradition, Jaga, the Belgian radiator company, has created a line of radiators that are truly beautiful and are green to boot. Aptly named, Energy Savers, these new radiators use 1 tenth of the water and are 12% more efficient than traditional radiators. Because of this higher efficiency operation, they also contribute nearly 1000 kg less of CO2 into the atmosphere. One of the more interesting models in this line is the Knockonwood model. It has a beautifully designed removable scratch-resistant wood casing that is safe to the touch and comes with a 10 year guarantee. Choices of wood include Oak natural, Beech natural, Maple natural, Zebrano natural, Oak bleached, Beech bleached, Mahogany, Oak wenge-coloured and Walnut.  If the link below throws an error, give it another click.  I’ve noticed that their site is a bit erratic.
This story is just amazing. I’m sure by now you have heard of the disappearance of Dr. Jim Gray, a Microsoft researcher. He and his 40′ sailboat went missing on Sunday the 28th of January while heading back to San Francisco from the Farallon Islands, about 25 miles west of the Golden Gate Bridge. Rescuers were faced with the monumental task of covering 132,000 square miles of ocean. United States Coast Guard boats and aircraft found nothing. However, word quickly spread throughout the technology community and friends, family and colleagues of Dr. Gray sprang into action. The New York Times article covers all of the details from web sites to constantly updated blogs to private plane searches. I don’t want to cover all of the approaches here, but I want to point out one that just amazes me. Amazon got involved and sponsored a satellite sweep of the area and then put all of the photos up on their servers. This sweep covered more than 3,500 square miles of ocean! Knowing that no one could conventionally scrutinize these photos, Amazon posted them through their web-based software application Mechanical Turk. The application presents you with 5 images and asks you to scrutinize them for any foreign objects. These images are then flagged and sent for further analysis. Volunteer participants scrutinized more than 560,000 images in the last 5 days! Just phenomenal. Just think about the level of technology involved and what we have available to us today.