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 🙂

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 🙂

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


Postie bike rebuild

Posted by jerry on March 5th, 2007 — Posted in Journal, Motorcycling

Progress! The Honda CT110 oversize piston kit arrived and the cylinder has now been rebored to fit the new piston.

piston kit

And with Sharon starting to be on the mend I took the opportunity during her sleep to start reassembly of Eve’s bike. First the new piston went on smoothly – the new piston pin slid neatly onto the connecting rod and the pisoton was secured with the new piston clips.

ct110 piston

After fitting the piston rings it was time to start on the barrel – there was a lot of rust and dirt on the barrel so I cleaned the exterior using kero brushed on and then a drill-mounted bronze wire brush.

CT110 cylinder

Then the tricky bit – fitting the cylinder without breaking the piston rings. After fitting a new bottom gasket I tackled the fitting. Not having a piston ring compression tool I used finger pressure to squeeze the rings closed as I gently lowered the barrel over the piston. This requires patience and eventually got it ride smoothly over the piston.

CT110 cylinder

taking care to thread the cam chain through. Then I fitted the cam sprocket to the cam chain and held it all in place with some thin wire.

Now for the head. I cleaned the carbon out of the combustion chamber and the valves, and removed the remnants of the previous gasket, before cleaning the outside of the head thoroughly and fitting a new head gasket.

I lowered this gently in place and then, after making sure the crankshaft was at top dead centre, I installed the cam through the cam chain sprocket and bolted it in place, using a small 10mmsocket wrench. I set the other socket wrench on the timing end of the crankshaft to stop the cranckshaft rotating when I tightened up the sprocket bolts.

Once in place it was a relatively quick process to install the covers with their respective new gaskets, so it looks nearly complete.

CT110 engine

Next step was to refit the carburettor inlet manifold – with its new gasket – and then the exhaust.

CT110 engine

Looks like a new engine now! And in many ways it is – it will need running in of course. But before I can test start it I want to get the footpegs and bash-plate back on – so more to come on this rebuild 🙂


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


More web legislation? Crikey!

Posted by jerry on March 3rd, 2007 — Posted in New media

Alerted by Duncan Riley’s 901 news blog, there appears to be some new legislation proposed by Australian Communications Minister Helen Coonan to try to impose a classification system on all web content – presumably including all blogs and web sites, as well as e-books and perhaps online spaces like SecondLife.

It seems on the face of it impractical, but in fact is more likely to follow a similar trajectory to the BROADCASTING SERVICES AMENDMENT (ONLINE SERVICES) ACT 1999. – A good political showpiece in an election year – with little real effect.

901 news blog

The Bill (not yet drafted) to be introduced for passage in the (Australian) Autumn session is known as the

Communications Legislation Amendment (Content Services) Bill

Its purpose being to “- reform the regulatory structures for non-broadcasting communications content to ensure that existing policy principles for the regulation of content are consistently applied to these new audio-visual services “

Crikey dot com

Well Crikey reckons it’s unworkable because the Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts would have to employ a heap of new staff to cope with the flood of online books, video content (YouTube) and of course the plethora of blog posts. All of which would need to go through the Office of Film and Television Classification. Interesting proposal, given that Australia is still fifth in the world for internet penetration with 70.2 percent online and around 14million netizens in Australia.

As a piece of political theatre the proposed legislation is likely to work like the Australian Broadcasting (online services) Act 1999. That Act made 72 pages of amendments to the Australian Broadcasting Services Act (1992) in order to allow people to submit an objection to the Broadcasting Authority over a web site, which would then be looked into by probably 0.5 of a designated officer, who could then request politely that the site be taken down or at least moved out of Australian jurisdiction – an action which would take the average computer geek about 15 minutes.

This way, it would serve the political ends of not seeming to give web users a free rein at the expense of Big Media, while actually having an almost immeasurable effect on web content providers. Yes we may have to display our self classification of content on our pages, but that is little different from the requirements of most ISPs these days anyhow – with suitable clauses about reporting unsuitable or offensive content.

Jokingly, one could perhaps wonder if the Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts would run a trial system in which everyone submits all blog posts, emails, web content, videos etc to the Office of Film and Television Classification in order to scope the staffing levels needed in order to cope with the traffic. 🙂

If the devil’s in the details, we’ll just have to see what the legislative drafters come up with as the Bill nears its introduction. Here’s what The Australian Newspaper had to say on the topic on 26 Feb

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.