I am so getting a few of these.

Power outlets with two USB power points.  There are couple of spots in the house were this would be really useful, especially for charging iPhones.   What is nice about this model is that the adapters don’t draw power when nothing is plugged in, unlike a wall wart.

The rumor is that these will run for $10 and be available in early 2010.

The Droid

Verizon has finally gotten what could a be a viable iPhone replacement.  A phone running the latest version of Google’s Andorid OS and a growing supply of applitions.

I haven’t got my hands on one yet, but I’ve read a few reviews that state it stands up quite well in head to head comparisons with the iPhone.  The biggest complaint I’ve heard is that the iPhone has a much deeper pool of applications available.  Not suprising, but I expect the number of Android apps to grow quickly.

Verizon is also pushing its much wider 3G coverage heavily, but it’s still not a GSM network.  That topic has been discussed here, and I’m sure it will again, but I’m still a fan of GSM networks.  It is my opinion that Verizon is going to have to bite that bullet sooner or later.

The Droid phone and its OS have another advantage, open source.  The iPhone is locked down tight by Apple.  It controls your apps, what they can do, and how much data you can transfer over the cell phone network.  An Android based phone, with a SIM slot, is much more flexible.

Today’s Coffee Tip

I found this interesting post on cleaning your coffee grinder.

If you aren’t drinking freshly ground coffee, you should be.

Ok, here is the tip from weeklyroast.com’s coffee blog, uncooked white rice.

A really great way to clean out your grinder is to use uncooked, white rice. If you use a blade grinder (and we highly recommend upgrading to a burr grinder!), fill it with white rice up to the blades. If you use a burr grinder, put about 2-3 teaspoons worth of white rice and set the burr grinder to a fine grind (espresso) setting and start grinding.

After you’ve finished grinding, you’ll notice immediately that large clumps of previously ground coffee are now clinging to the powdered, ground white rice and after dumping the grounds out, you should see spots you could never clean before coffee-ground free. The inside of the grinder should also be a lot cleaner than before as most of the old, rancid coffee oils also attached themselves to the white rice (they’re attracted to the starch in the rice – that’s why this technique works so well).

Repeat this process until the ground rice no longer has any black particles in it.

I was cleaning out my grinder fairly regularly, but this clearly did pick up some coffee particles that my regular cleaning didn’t get.

Originally posted at the Urbin Report.

Barnes and Noble enters the e-book reader market

Barnes and Noble has announced the Nook, their e-book reader.

This is in direct competition to Amazon’s Kindle.  It’s a very similar bit of technology, the major difference being that the B&N Nook will allow users to “share” e-books with other Nook users.  It works this way.  You purchase an ebook from B&N on your Nook.  You like it.  You think your buddy, who also has a Nook, would like it. So you can “loan” that book to said buddy.  It will be available to be read on his Nook for two weeks.  My bet is that this will generate a lot a ebook sales.

Now, some may argue that Amazon already owns the  mind share for e-book readers, having crushed the Sony E-Reader in the market.  The Kindle took off because Amazon was already seen as a major e-retailer of books and they had the ability to buy books immediately on the Kindle using mobile Internet technology.  Sony wasn’t known as a book seller and they had no such “instant buy” option.  The Nook has a similar broadband connection to the Kindle and B&N is seen as a major retailer of books by the public.  The fact that B&N has a much larger ebook library than Amazon doesn’t hurt either.

There are two major flaws I can see with the Nook.  First, the whole DRM thing. Second is that it only supports three formats, EPUB, eReader and PDF.  A few more, including unencrypted Mobipocket, would be nice.

Amazon has responded, quietly, with the announcement that they will release free “Kindle software” for the PC platform, so people can read Amazon’s DRM crippled ebooks on their desktop or notebook computers.  MAC and LINUX users are not supported in this release.  Amazon is also selling refurbish (i.e. used) first gen Kindles for $150.

Bad PR for the Kindle

As I’ve noted before, it is my theory that Amazon does not actual sell e-books on it’s Kindle device, it leases the book to the reader.

Another point of evidence to support that theory has just come out. According to this New York Times story, Amazon can delete e-books off your Kindle, that you have “purchased” from them, without your knowledge or consent.

One of the books removed, George Orwell’s “1984

Keep in mind that Amazon was the first company to grab a noticable portion of Apple’s iTunes digital formated music business by offering MP3 files without copy protection.  Amazon is using it’s dominate position in the online bookselling business to force an ugly “DRM” scheme on its customers that assumes that they are thieves.

Amazon, and publishing companies, need to recognize that they make most of their money off avid readers who are willing to spend money to support their favorite authors.  Their fear driven reaction to the fear mongering of the RIAA is pushing them toward a business model that is hostile toward their best customers.  They would better serve their customers, and their stockholders, by working with the customer instead of treating them like criminals.

Portions of this post were first published on the Urbin Report.

New iPhone hardware

According to Fortune Magazine, Apple is building 5-6 million new iPhones at their Chinese factories.

The rumor is to expect two new models in either June or July.  One will be faster, with more memory and a better camera at least. The other would be a step backwards, a less powerful, but cheaper model.

Another issue facing Apple & iPhone users is AT&T’s 3G network. It seems AT&T is a bit nervous about millions of new 3G phones hitting it’s network this summer and is rushing to upgrade in order to handle the load.

Digital Picture Frames

One of the hot items this Christmas is digital picture frames.  I’ve been looking at various models, bought several and returned a couple.  

First, what not to buy. Omnitech digital picture frames.  Omnitech is a Staples brand name.  Don’t let the low price suck you in like it did me.  The quality is absolute dreck!  Very low resolution pictures.  Here is a tip, if the resolution of the screen isn’t printed on the box somewhere, it’s probably safe to assume that it sucks.

I found two models that I’m happy with.  The first is an HP 10.4″ model.  The resolution is 800×600, it has a remote, support for music files, movies, CF/SD cards…all the usual stuff.  A bit pricy, Amazon has it for $165, but then you are paying for the brand name and the perceived level of quality. It will show your digital photographs off quite nicely though.  It also has different colored mats that can be swapped out to match your room’s color scheme.

The other model I like is the Smartparts OptiPix Pro 10.4″ digital picture frame, which Amazon has for $99.99.  According to data on the box, the resolution is 640×480.  I’ve got it set next to the 800×600 HP, loaded with same pictures, and I can’t see $65 worth of difference between them. 

Bottom line, if you want a decent digital picture frame, be prepared to spend at least $100, and while it’s probably safe going with a well know brand name like HP, it may not be the best buy available.

About those jetpacks

I recently posted about flying cars and the question of where our 21st Century Jet Packs where.

I seems there are several Jet Pack companies out there, including Jet Pack, International, Tecnologia Aeroespacial Mexicana of Mexico, New Zealand’s Martin Jetpack and Thunderbolt Aerosystems, based in San Jose, CA. 

Their products aren’t cheap, the low end ones run about $100,000 with the end end models cost in the $250,000 range. 

Most of their Jet Packs are actually Rocket packs and only can carry about a minute of fuel. So flight ranges are limited.  The Martin JetPack actually uses ducted fans, and claims a 30 minute (at 60 mph) range.  it is a bit big and still in the “barely off the ground” phase from what I can tell.

Business card sized web server

Ok, it’s a little thicker, but still way cool.  Tiny web server aren’t that new.  I remember seeing webservers that fit in a matchbox years ago.

The fact that you can etch this board yourself and that it uses a SD card instead of eeprom is slick.

The hot tech gadget…

is the old Rev 1 Apple iPhone.   Tech consumers are spend up to $600 for a 16 Gig Rev 1 iPhone according to WirelessImports.com, a seller of used iPhones. That is $100 more than they sold for new! Even the 8 Gig iPhones are selling for the same $100 markup.

One of the main reasons given for the demand for the rev1 phones is that they are easier to unlock than the rev 2 3G iPhones.  An unlocked (i.e. hacked) iPhone can be used on other networks than AT&T.