Sunday, July 30, 2006

Are Your Electronics Robbing You?

Did you know that when you turn off most of your electronic devices (such as your TV, computer, A/V hardware, etc...) their still drawing power, and could be costing you a lot of money in wasted electricity? When most electronics are turned off, they go into a 'low-power' or 'standby' state instead of going all the way off. Sometimes in this low power state they can consume as much as a quarter to half the electricity they would draw as if they were on.

Another big waster of electricity is the power adapters (AKA transformers) on all of our other electronic devices we have sitting around the house and office, like: cordless phones, answering machines, etc. These power adapters will still draw power even when the device is not being used.

With the skyrocketing cost of energy, we need electronics that go to the next level and shut off completely instead of going into a low-power state. Its been said that the standby states consumes about eight percent of all domestic electricity.

Recently the UK government outlawed standby switches on electronics, and requires energy efficiency be built into new devices. The technology required to make our electronics more energy efficient would not be hard for manufactures to implement into new product, but they have no incentive to do it. Until governments, and consumers push the electronic manufactures, we will not see a change in the status quo.

Saving Energy:
Besides the obvious stuff you do to save energy, like: buying more efficient appliances and electronics, turning off devices that you're not using, etc. Here are some more suggestions:
  • Plug your computer, monitor, and other peripherals (such as: printers, scanners, etc.) into a power strip. After you turn off all your electronics, turn off the power strip.
    • BITS makes a power strip that automatically cuts power to all your computer accessories when you turn your computer off.
  • Unplug power adapters that are not being used, or a better solution is to plug these devices into a power strip and turn it off when they're not in use.
  • If you use your computer and monitor sporadically throughout the day, activate the low-power states to save energy. This especially important if your computer is left on 24 hours a day.

Google To Launch Ad-Free Open Source Project Site (Article)

NetworkWorld reports: "Google is adding open source project hosting to its menu of services, said Greg Stein, a Google engineer and chairman of the Apache Software Foundation. Stein was scheduled to announce the launch in a talk Thursday at O'Reilly Media's Open Source Convention in Portland, Oregon. The new service, to be located at, competes with VA Software Corporation's Unlike, which carries both text and banner ads on project web pages, Google's service will be ad-free."

Free Voicemail (Avoid Unwanted Calls)

Do you hate giving out your personal phone number to companies that you know will use it for telemarketing, or when you place an ad online or in a newspaper. PrivatePhone will give you a free personal phone number and voice mailbox.

You can give out the phone number to anyone you want to contact you, without giving out your personal phone number. They can leave you a message, and you can call them back when you want too.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Phishing: Beyond E-mail

Note: Use caution when dealing with any merchants, creditors, or financial institutions that contact you directly. Its getting harder and harder to tell who is real thing and who is an identify thieve trying to steal your private information. The advice provided below is just some basic guidelines you can follow for handling these situations. Ultimately you have to make your own decisions on how you want to handle it.

A few weeks back I posted an article warning about "Vishing" (or voice phishing). If you don't know what vishing is, this is where identity thieves send you an legitimate looking e-mail from a company that you may recognize (such as a bank or major online merchant) that asks you to call a phone number to correct a problem (such as a credit card or account information being stolen). The phone number is to a voice response system that will try to fool you into revealing your private information (such as your account numbers, PIN, social security number, etc.).

There is also another variation of this trick where the identity thieves are calling people using a recorded message and VoIP (Voice over IP) services to mask their real identity. The recording instructs the caller to call a specific number to correct a problem with their account. The phone number is to a voice response system that will try to fool you into revealing your private information.

The only way to beat this threat is to call a trusted number (such as the one from the phone book, on the back of your credit card, or off a statement that you receive) and verify the information that way. Avoid trusting the phone numbers that they provide you over the phone. Another trick is to ask them information about your account that only the real financial institution would be able to know, such as a recent transaction.

New Scam: False Collection Agency Letters
Now these people have turned to sending realistic looking collection agency letters using standard mail. Generally these letters will state that you owe thousands of dollars to a creditor that you have never heard of.

Be careful about calling these 'collection agency' it could be some thief trying to get your personal information (such as your social security number) by claiming that their trying to 'verify your identity'.

If you get one of these letters and you know that you don't owe the money, don't respond to this request. You might also want to consider double-checking your credit report for any references to the creditor trying to contact you.

After you verify that this might be a fraudulent request, send these letters to your state's attorney general's fraud investigation division.

Remember: Common sense is your best defense.

Tsar Bomba 50 Megatons (The largest nuclear weapon ever)

The Tsar Bomba was the largest nuclear weapon ever constructed or detonated. It was detonated at 4000 m altitude the 30th of October 1961 at Mityushikha Bay test range, Novaya Zemlya Island. It had a yield of 50 Megatons.

Monty Python's Holy Grail meets Star Wars

If you like this, also make sure to check out the following post.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Bathroom Tech: 10 Most Bizarre Products (article)

Gearlog reports: "Check out our list of the ten most bizarre bathroom tech items, in order of bizarreness."

There are some very bizarre products available for your bathroom. One of my favorites is the fish bowl toilet. Check out the article for more information.

Monday, July 24, 2006

The Best Nuclear Option (article)

Technology Review: "The U.S. Energy Department's fuel-recycling initiative could be a distraction from a more achievable goal: reviving today's nuclear industry and averting some carbon emissions in the short term."

With all the worries about oil and other fuels that we use for power, it seems like nuclear will be our best option for the future. This technology is not without its problems and other concerns, but there is not a lot of other choices out there. This technology has evolved radically since the 1970's. Maybe its time we give it a second chance???

Sunday, July 23, 2006

A plane you can print (article)

New Scientist Tech reports: "An unmanned aircraft made from 'printed' parts rather than traditional machine-tooled components has been unveiled at the Farnborough Air Show, UK."

Here is a new idea using an existing technologies. I am pretty sure that these 3D printers are going to drastically be refined if this type of manufacturing takes off. Read the article for the complete story.

Friday, July 21, 2006

USB Missile Launcher

This has to be one of the best USB gadget invented in a long time. I am pretty sure it will provide 5-10 minutes of entertainment before you get the boarded of it.

Calling 411 For Free (updated)

If you want to call 411 from your cell phone, it will cost you about $1 or more. This is a little too expensive for my taste.

The great news is that there are free alternatives for finding phone numbers, but you will have to listen to ads to get your numbers:
  • Free 411 (1-800-FREE-411): Automated 411 phone service that requires you a listen to a 15 second ad to use the service.
  • 1-800-411-METRO (6387): You listen to more ads, but you get to talk to a real human and the service connects you to phone number for free.
  • 1-800-555-1212: Automated toll free directory assistance, no ads, and live operators during the day.
There is also:
  • Google's SMS: Type something like "pizza san francisco ca" and SMS to the following number to 46645. You will get a few listings that match your query.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

PC vs. Apple Mac (video)

Here's a parody of Apple's PC vs. Mac commercial starring Christian Finnegan and Nick Kroll. It's pretty funny... (Rating: PG-13)

Friday, July 14, 2006

Magnetic memory' chip unveiled (article)

BBC reports: "A microchip which can store information like a hard drive has been unveiled by US company Freescale. ... The chip, called magnetoresistive random-access memory (Mram), maintains data by relying on magnetic properties rather than an electrical charge."

This technology is the is the most significant development in computer memory for about a decade. The advantages of MRAM vs. Flash is: MRAM has faster read/write speeds and data doesn't degrade over time.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

William Shatner Loves Lucy (video)

This video is trippy, but very funny video. Its William Shatner singing the Beatles 'Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds'. For those who might ask if this this is really him sining it, the answer is 'yes'. Mr. Shatner had a very short career as a singer.

Bonus Video:
If you can handle it, here is a video William Shatner singing Rocketman. I couldn't watch it all the way through, it was too painful (my ears, the pain). They should have called it 'Captain Kirk' sings Rocketman, because 'each' 'word' 'is' 'pronounced' 'like' 'its' 'very' 'own' 'sentence'. ;-)

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Stealth radar sees through objects undetected

OSU ElectroScience Laboratory reports: "ElectroScience Engineers have invented a radar system that is virtually undetectable because its signal resembles random noise. The radar could have applications in law enforcement, the military and disaster rescue. Eric Walton, senior research scientist in Ohio State's ElectroScience Laboratory, said that with further development the technology could even be used for medical imaging."

I hate quoting from a press release, but this is the best information on I can find on this technology. I couldn't even find a public name for the technology. All that said, if this technology lives up to it claims it will have some amazing applications.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Judge Deals Blow to SCO in $5 Billion Linux Lawsuit (article) reports: "The holidays came early for devotees of the Linux operating system when a judge last week threw out the majority of claims brought against IBM by the SCO Group in its $5 billion intellectual property rights case."

This is hopefully the beginning of the end of this lawsuit. The judge dismissed 182 of SCO's original 294 claims. SCO failed to comply with repeat requests to hand over to IBM and the court with specific information about the lines of code that they claim were stolen.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

AOL may offer free high-speed Internet (article)

Reuters reports: "Time Warner Inc.'s AOL unit may offer its full menu of services, including e-mail, free of charge to anyone with a high-speed Internet connection, The Wall Street Journal said on Thursday, citing people familiar with the matter."

In the late 1990's AOL was signing up millions and millions of people, in fact they could barely keep-up with the growth. Now they're losing hundreds of thousands every quarter. Their dial-up business is dieing. They're now trying to save themselves by offering their services for free, and supporting themselves through advertisements.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Classic Dr. Demento D and D Spoof (video)

Below is a excerpt from the video's description (with corrections): "We've all been there. You spend a week crafting a campaign, just to try to work some idiot through it while they fire off magic missiles 'at the darkness', some other jerk keeps changing his character's attributes and this weenie who eats all your snacks and Mountain Dew keeps hassling you for some virtual play in a virtual pub. ... This is machinima set to the classic Dr. Demento D and D spoof."

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Wiring Like a Pro (article)

PC Magazine reports: "In a world of wireless this and wireless that, sometimes we all find ourselves begging for a little bit more - a little more reliability, a little more bandwidth, a little more speed, a little more security, and heck, even a little more free time to enjoy this world that offers so much more. In order to feed this technology crave, we need to go back to the basics and connect our dots with copper."

Unfortunately most audio/video electronics don't support wireless connections. This forces you to run wires behind furniture, along the baseboard, etc. If you want to have a professional looking installation, then you will want to have the wires run behind the walls.

If you're a DIYer looking for a good tutorial on how to properly run computer/video cables and what tools you need. Then checkout the following article.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Mach-Lorentz Thrusters (can you say impulse engines)

CNet reports: "Only time and money separate the current state of rocket propulsion science from the engine rooms of Star Trek's Starfleet, according to a university professor. ... James Woodward, a history professor at California State University in Fullerton, presented his research into Mach-Lorentz thrusters Wednesday at the Future in Review conference here. Mach-Lorentz thrusters (MLTs), assuming they can be scaled up from lab tests, could provide a new source of propulsion"

Mach-Lorentz Thrusters are based on the work of two men. Mach's principle which suggests that all particles in the universe have an effect on each other. Also Hendrik Lorentz work, who conducted research into the movement of charged particles in a magnetic field.