Bags of power!

Posted by jerry on March 6th, 2007 — Posted in Journal, Technology, Travel

A backpack that recharges your laptop/PDA/phone – now that’s what I’d like! Great for folk festivals where the power isn’t always plentiful, but you really need to keep things running – like an MP3 recorder for the music sessions to help you learn a new tune. All you need now is a backpack that recharges with a little ray of sunshine – and in a five year drought there’s plenty of that in Australia ­čÖé

solar bag

The Reware Juice Bag is just that – a backpack covered with flexible solar cells. They come in bright colours and with a built-in car lighter socket to plug in your adapter for whatever you need to keep charged – your camera, your laptop your PDA or phone. The thing is water resistant, light and padded to keep your electronics safe. And they’re made from recycled drink plastic drink bottles woven into a strong textile fibre.
I guess there are two things that give me pause before jumping straight in with my credit card. The first is price – these things aren’t cheap at around US$275, and the second, and bigger concern is how they travel through airports these days. I can just see the security guys having a sense of humour failure as they run it through the x-ray machines and see all those wires … Anyone been through an airport lately with one of these? I’d love to hear from you if you have.

And for the more fashion conscious there are other more discreet handbags – that actually look more like fashion bags than technology.

Solarjo power purse

But it’s a question of taste – Sharon would prefer more of a shoulder tote bag than either a backpack or a bag that just keeps your hands full. So the technology is coming – but I guess the designers still have a bit of a way to go yet ­čÖé

Some go part way, like this Eclipse shoulder bag – but it kinda looks like an anti-fashion statement
Eclipse shoulder bag

But these Voltaic ones are starting to look the part

Voltaic bag

Either way I like the direction this is going – would’ve been really handy in the aftermath of the Great Fire of Canberra when we were without power for a week.

It has the potential to be great travel technology if they can keep it tough enough and flexible enough to take the wear. Thanks to Popgadget via Angela’s blog


Social Networking – here to stay

Posted by jerry on March 4th, 2007 — Posted in Journal, New media, Technology

I would have to agree with Henry Jenkins where he notes in his video interview that social networking is here to stay – irrespective of whether it’s YouTube, Myspace or the new leading space FaceBook. Jenkins makes the point that as new young people join online spaces, they want to be in a space that’s not inhabited by their older brothers – making MySpace “so 20 minutes ago”.

Check it out on Angela Thomas’ blog.

Angela Thomas' blog


Difference Engine – Babbage would have been proud

Posted by jerry on March 2nd, 2007 — Posted in New media, Technology

I had been re-reading Willim Gibson/Bruce Sterling’s book The Difference Engine and recalled the one built in the London Science Museum which was built as far as possible with the metallurgy and tolerances available to Charles Babbage in the 1820s. And the machine works well.

Difference Engine

Seeing the (re)production machine which weighs in at around 2.62 tonnes and occupies an area 12.65 feet by 6.65 feet and 8.21 feet high – this is a seriously impressive machine. It can solve 7th order polynomials to 31 digits of accuracy – certainly greater than the average pocket calculator today.

But then a quick search showed that some enterprising souls have been making good use of multi-modal construction toys like Meccano┬« and Lego┬« to re-create at least part of Babbage’s Difference Engine Number 2.

Tim Robinson set about building his in Meccano┬« to achieve a successful working model – eventually he hopes to power it with a Meccano (Mamod?) steam engine to realise fully the steam-punk dream.

Meccano Difference Engine

Andrew Carol’s approach was different, setting about solving the challenges posed by flexible plastic components to produce a 3 order polynomial machine built in a modular way using Lego┬«

Lego Difference Engine

One way to understand these machines better is to take a look at the instruction manual for the Science Museum machine – it certainly brings home the breadth of the achievement in building Babbage’s Difference Engine. And you can look here for technical specifications of the machine on Ed Thelen’s web site.

And in 2000, nine years after the Difference Engine No2 was completed, engineers at the London Science Museum completed the printer element of the engine, thus giving hard-copy output to the set of numbers.

Babbage printer

All up these are a great way to come to grips with a remarkable precursor to modern computers. Babbage stopped working on his Difference Engine No2 in order to devote time to develloping the true precursor to the modern computer – the Analytic Engine – which, thanks to Ada Lovelace’s programming genius, would have been able to perform any kind of operation, using IF/THEN logic not just the pre-set operations.

One could well speculate, as Gibson and Sterling have done, what might the Victorian era been like in the UK if the Analytic Engine became as widespread as computers today. I’m inclined to think, however, that it would have required a social change to see the need for these machines before they would have emerged into wider society’s use.


Second Life Tube station

Posted by jerry on March 1st, 2007 — Posted in Journal, New media, Technology

With all the exotic means to get around in Second Life – who’d have thought that some bright spark would come up with … a London Underground tube stop! Does that mean someone has actually built a whole Tube system?

Second Life Tube stop

Thanks to the Going Underound’s Blog for this link – there are some great vid clips too of lego folk catching the tube and a wonderful French one advertising the Metro!


Online privacy – teens stay private

Posted by jerry on February 27th, 2007 — Posted in Journal, New media, Technology

Angela Thomas’ blog has an interesting piece on teens and online privacy. I too have thought that young people seem happy to share an extraordinary amount of personal information online – especially with sites like MySpace and Friendster. But some new research suggests that although kids share with friends, a very large percentage – the majority in fact – keep their personal profile private.

Angela Thomas' Blog