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What else can you power with solar energy?

Solar powered device 1 Taking advantage of solar energy means dedicating a significant size of your roof space to large, unwieldy solar panels, right?

The answer is, of course, no. You can buy solar panels in all sorts of sizes, ranging from a square foot or less to an entire yard-size. Of course, if you want to get all of your home power from solar energy, you’ll have to invest in a large span of panels. But if you’re looking for a smaller, cheaper place to begin your relationship with the sun, why not start by powering your personal electronics?

Several companies now offer solar power packs that are small, attractive, and portable. They’re meant for powering devices like CD and MP3 players, speakers, and cell phones. While prices can range up into the hundreds for elaborate systems, some companies like Solar Style offer small packs for as little as $27.99.

Portable solar power packs from Solar Style
Solar powered device 2
How do they do it? We start with the most essential item: the photovoltaic cells that capture energy from the sun. In fact, the sun isn’t even necessary; light from any source can be converted into usable energy. Of course, the more intense the light, the more energy you will store.

The next step is to store the energy. Solar packs have an on-board battery that acts as your savings account for the energy you collect. Leave your power pack collecting light whenever you can, and save the energy for later. (But don’t turn on a houselight specifically to shine on the pack – that’s just being silly!)

Now, the only remaining step is getting that power to your electronic devices. All you need for this is the right connector. Most purchase options include some connectors for cell phones and music players. If your device has an unusual power connector, you may have to buy one separately. The point is, you can power any device this way, as long as you have the connector.

At these prices, there is no reason not to purchase a solar power pack. The devices are small and convenient, and can eliminate the need for an outlet – thus allowing us to truly enter the wireless age. In addition to convenience, these gadgets are green. Instead of using expensive electricity from the power grid, which increases carbon emissions and dependence on foreign oil, you can tap into a free, renewable energy source that already surrounds you.

Check out the websites of Solar Dyne, Radio Labs, and Solar Style for more on their products.

Google Street View: Useful Tool or Attack on Personal Privacy?

Street sample So you want to meet a few friends at a trendy restaurant in downtown San Francisco. Trouble is, you don’t remember the exact location or even the name. How are you going to tell your friends where to meet you?

Solving this dilemma used to require a long quest to track the place down. Now you can make that journey virtually, by clicking on Google Maps’ new Street View feature.

Street View is available for dozens of major cities across the U.S. It doesn’t cover all of each city. But in covered areas, it provides access to a 360 degree street-level view from almost any point on the block. All you need to do to locate your restaurant is to take a "stroll" down the street and check out the surroundings until you find it. Map

Here’s an idea for your next vacation: In order to capture everything you see, keep a camera rolling every time you walk down the street. That way you’ll have a virtual record of every intersection, every market, every coffee shop you pass.

That’s essentially what Google has done. They hired Immersive Media Corp., out of Calgary, to provide their high-resolution digital photographs. This meant mounting a camera on a car and driving down every single street that is covered.

It’s hard to deny that this is a really useful feature. Knowing what your surroundings look like is invariably helpful in finding your way. Everyone from the average citizen to local police officers can find a use for this.

But not everybody is so thrilled about the idea.

Suppose you find that restaurant by noticing the sign out front. But that’s not it. You can also see the people sitting at the outdoor tables, including one who looks a lot like your significant other. And who is that sitting suspiciously close to them…?

You get the idea. In addition to shots of the street, the images also capture people, cars, windows, yards, and all sorts of things that opponents say constitute a huge breach of privacy. And since there’s nothing we love more than privacy breaches, there are a bevy of blogs on the Internet where users have posted "items of interest" found on Street View. These show possible drug deals, people caught in embarrassing positions, and views of homes through windows.

Google defends its venture by saying that it offers protection for the embarrassing lack of privacy. Compromising images can be reported, after which they will be removed or altered. And of course, the images aren’t live; they were collected many months ago.

The bottom line? Lawsuits are inevitable. All it will take is a "discovery" on Google Maps that leads to a divorce, loss of job, or a burglary. Will this remove the Street View feature forever? Or will it simply force Google to be more careful about what it shows in its virtual Universe?

Should I Buy An Air? Pros and Cons of the New MacBook

Mac Book Air The introduction of the new ultra-thin MacBook Air at the Macworld convention is the talk of every town. Some people are thrilled. Some people are disgusted. Like any computer, this new edition has features that will work fantastically for some and will be a big hindrance for others. Here, we take a case-by-case look at whether the Air is right for you.

Family

A plus: It’s small and light enough that your kids can use it. A minus: At a selling price of $1799, maybe you don’t want your kids to handle it. This computer also assumes that you have fully upgraded to the digital age. If you still want to play or rip music CD’s using your computer or do not have wireless at home, you will have to buy expensive accessories.
Bottom line: This should not be your only at-home computer.

Work-from-home professional

The portability and 5-hour battery life of this MacBook mean that you can take it with you just about anywhere you care to work. You probably work almost exclusively wirelessly already, eliminating needs for interfaces with Ethernet and firewire. The Intel dual processor, 2GB memory, and 80GB hard drive should be enough for most of your business needs.
Bottom line: The Air was designed with you in mind.

College student

If there’s one thing students are sick of, it’s lugging around heavy objects. The thin Air can be easily slipped between books in a backpack, making it easy to bring your MacBook with you for notetaking in class, easy-access research, etc. College campuses usually have fast, easy-to-access wireless technology. You probably don’t need the memory and processing power, unless you experiment with digital music production. In addition, the new movie rental service might completely eliminate the need for a TV in your dorm room.
Bottom line: If you have enough student loan money left over, invest in an Air.

Traveling businessperson

Finally, a laptop that you can use throughout a cross-country flight without running out of battery. The portability, size, and processing power are also nice. Wireless will be available most places you work, and you could invest in the Ethernet adapter if you are worried about being able to connect from your hotel room.
Bottom line: A sleek, useful traveling tool.

Magnetic motor?

Perendev Magnetic Motor Hydrogen cars? No, this is a lot more interesting. I’ve had in mind that there was a possibility for us to use permanent magnets as a source of power that would be clean and would cost almost nothing to produce. I’ve been thinking about the various prototypes that could be created and here’s what have been published lately.
The Perendev magnet motor is claimed to be driven soley by permanent magnets in a particular configuration that includes proper shielding or directing of the magnetic field. The output claimed for the scalable device’s present configuration is 20 kW, attached to a generator. Perendev claims that the unit has been tested in independent laboratories and that no diminution of magnet strength is observed over time.
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Philips Lumalive light emitting t-shirt

Philips Lumalive light emitting textiles Imagine wearing a t-shirt where you’d be able to display light animation. Well, with Philips new technology called Lumalive, it’s now possible. Fully integrated into fabrics, the LEDs doesn’t compromise the softness or flexibility of the cloth.
Although the technology has been developed only recently, […] Philips Research has made immense progress in fully integrating Lumalive fabrics into garments demonstrated by the jackets worn by Philips’ hostesses at the show. These first-generation jackets are ready for commercialization by companies partnering with Philips Research, particularly those in the promotional industry looking for a new, high-impact medium.
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