Sad Commentary on Person Tech, Here in the 21st Century

Steven Manes has a sad-but-true editorial in PC World about the continued crummy state of personal tech “user-surliness,” here in the early hours of the 21st century:

Concepts that seem obvious to those of us who cultivate technical savvy are utterly alien to the nontech majority–with good reason, since most products, services, and technologies aren’t nearly as simple as techies and tech companies would like to believe. Just ask anybody with half a dozen remotes on the coffee table and a spouse who merely wants to watch a pay-cable show–even without the complication of getting it to play through a home audio system.

Read the rest of the piece here.


New MS Long-Term Thinker a Cure for Insomnia?

Microsoft astounds me, or confounds me, might be the better verb. Certain companies have corporate instincts that seem utterly off the mark to me. Microsoft is chief among these. I just did some tech support this weekend for a friend, working on a new Sony Vaio I’d helped him buy. It was my first experience working with Vista. I expected Vista to be much better looking, easier to understand and operate, etc. than XP. I hated nearly everything about it. And the numerous security messages and dialog boxes that popped up as we attempted to get an external HD and a scanner to talk to the machine were as befuddling and muddling as any in previous MS OSes. This is a company that just don’t seem to get user functionality for normal humans.

I took this weekend experience with me (and all attendant prejudices) to a video the Wall Street Journal sent me this morning, a sit-down with MS’s new chief research-and-strategy officer, Craig Mundie. This is the guy who’s supposed to be looking into the future, getting MS and the rest of us excited about technologies in the pipeline. I was bored senseless watching this video. Maybe there’s a lot more here than meets the eye, but Mundie seems like he has all of the charisma and innovation mojo of an ’80s mid-level executive at Big Blue. He makes Bill look like a party animal.

Here’s the WSJ video.


Spherical Solar Cells

From TreeHugger:

Japan’s Clean Venture 21 has developed a new spin on solar with their Spherical Silicon Solar Array. Texas Instruments evidently first made them in the ’80s but efficiency was only about 10% and the costs were high; Clean Ventures puts each little 1mm ball into a little reflector. It still is only 12% efficient, but they claim that it has only one fifth the amount of silicon and should only cost one fifth as much to make, using half as much energy as conventional solar cell manufacture. Evidently silicon balls are made by dripping rather than cutting, so little raw material is needed, there is no cutting, and the optical properties are good.

::Diginfo movie here; Japanese ::Clean Venture 21


Gareth’s Week on MAKE

Here are the items I blogged this week on MAKE:

Wiimote as car accelerometer – Link
Six-button capacitive touch pad – Link
HOW TO – Make a simple fly trap – Link
Home roasting rigs building contest – Link
Make your own Moonbeam – Link
HOW TO – Track (and document) currency – Link
Huge lens: project or paperweight? – Link
Green steam – Link
Of Moonbeams and motorcycles – Link
Tools you didn’t know you needed – Link
Personal blimps – Link
Wii telescope control – Link
BEAM bots with complex behaviors – Link
Game machine hacking at Vienna Dorkbot – Link
Ordering PCBs from China – Link

Wow. That was a lot (Phillip was away at OSCON).


Great Comic-Con Coverage, Too Much Coffee, Man!

The game-obsessives over at Kotaku have been doing a fine job covering this year’s totally sold-out Comic-Con in San Diego. Above is from their piece on a new Hasbro Transformer PlayStation controller, due out next month.

Of all of the nerdgasms possible at this year’s Con, the thing I wish most I could have seen is Shannon Wheeler’s “Too Much Coffee Man: The Opera.” Gee, do you think it’s coming to Broadway? Hey, stranger things have happened.

UPDATE: I found out more info on TMCM: The Opera. After the jump, find Shannon’s Press Release. Coming back to Portland in Spring ’08!


And you thought your last cavity search was thorough

You know what’s really, really sad is how much trouble this tote bag would really, really get you into if you tried to take it onto a plane. Remember the scene in Lily Tomlin’s “The Search for Intelligent Life in the Universe,” where she’s trying to explain to her “space buddies” the different between a Warhol painting of a soup can and a can of soup? Welcome to a similar search.


Rocketcar Day Wrap Video

Street Tech pal Mark Pesce has put together a great little video wrap-up of Rocketcar Day 9. Totally sweet. Takes me back to my reckless youth when we used to strap Estes motors onto anything and everything. There’s nothing like a rocket engine whirly giggin’ around your feet to get your attention!