DIY DVR with SageTV

This week’s “Hack Attack” column on Lifehacker is a how-to on building your own Digital Video Recorder using any (suitable) PC you want to turn into a media box, a TV capture card, and DVR software. While the piece discusses the range of hardware and software options available, it focuses on the Hauppauge PVR-150 card and the SageTV software.

TicTac LED Flashlight

Severals years ago, a friend gave me a super-bright LED keychain flashlight. It’s was a very useful thing to always have at hand. Bright enough to function as a real flashlight on a darkened path, perfect for finding the right key and the lock when the porch light was burned out. It broke into pieces in my pocket a couple of nights ago and I vowed to replace it immediately. Today, I saw this DIY one on Make, made out of a TicTac box (got plenty of those lying around). Geek folk art/fashion statement AND handy pocket tool. What more could you ask for? Maybe a Blue Balls table lamp?

El Cheapo MP3 Player Round-Up

Ars Technica has a really nice round-up of current flash-based, low-priced digital audio players. The piece takes a reasonably in-depth look at nine players, and ends with a comparison matrix and a best [blank] list: (Best recording capability: Samsung YP-7T, Best value: SanDisk Sansa m230, Best battery life: Samsung YP-MT6, etc.).

The best player overall was the Samsung YP-MT6 (around US$100 street). For as low as $50 street, the SanDisk Sansa m230 looks like it has a lot going for it. Okay, it looks like something Ron Popeil might have designed, in the ’50s, but if you don’t care that much about the look of your player, the Sansa m230 might be worth your gander,

How to: Recycling Computers

Many years ago (we’re old), Street Tech did a piece called “What to Do with an Old CPU” with ideas on how to recycle your passed over PCs. It was one of the articles that we got the most interest in, along with many emails asking us to update it. We didn’t (we’re old AND lazy).

But the fine crunchy ones over at Treehugger have posted a more contemporary list of similar ideas and orgs in their piece How to: Recycle Your Old Computer.

Also: Be sure to check out Xeni’s Boing Boing post and link to sobering Salon article on our exporting of toxic computer waste to the developing world.

Want to Keep the Bots at Bay? Confound ‘Em With Kitties!

We all know and despise those torturous site authentication schemes that ask you to identify a series of numbers and letters floating in a swirling morass o’ crap. These are used so that spambots can’t get in. But soon enough, the bots solve the puzzle and we meatbots are subjected to an even gnarlier-looking visual lock to pick. There HAS to be a better, and there is: Kittens!

An enterprising chap named Oli Warner discovered that, while we humans have no trouble picking pics of furry little kittens out of groups of other similarly cute and furry critters (mice, bunnies, puppies), computers do. The result is KittenAuth. Implementers of this authentication scheme don’t HAVE to use kitties, but c’mon, look at that face! Why wouldn’t you?

[Via The Inquirer]

Maybe DRM Sucks Less (Battery Life) Than Thought

A couple of weeks ago, we linked to a report that CNet Labs had done that seemed to show that DRM (Digital Rights Management) technologies actually sucked up more battery life from portable players than non-DRM’d audio files.

DAPReview did some follow up tests and say: uh-uh. While the CNet tests suggested as much as a 25% difference, the DAPers think it’s more like under 3%. So, you can scratch THAT off of your list of reason’s to diss DRM.

[Via Gizmodo]

Simple Fix for Plugging Firefox Memory Leaks

Cybernet Technology News offers a quick fix that can help with Firefox’s annoying memory leakage. This fix will bump memory usage down to under 10MB every time you minimize Firefox (Windows OS, only). When minimized, it writes Firefox to the hard drive and fetches it from there when you maximize. Memory obviously increases again, but the process will release some of the “excess” memory Firefox is holding onto. In the test the author did, the browser started off using 180MB of memory. After minimizing, then maximizing, it only inflated back to 60MB.

Allegedly, IE and Opera already do this memory management. Hopefully, Firefox will implement it in a future release. Until they do, there’s a simple change to perform in the Firefox config file.

See the steps after the jump…

The Surreal Art of USB

We’ve chronicled some of wacky side of USB connectivity here on Street Tech. Manufacturers seem to be pushing the limits of what can be plugged into this “universal” technology. So where to next? How about off the deep end? That’s where you’ll find “universal connections,” a German art exhibition of everyday objects plugged into the virtual world via the now ubiquitous USB connector.

I think I might actually want to make a thumb drive with the USB syringe, designed for “data junkies” and for use “in the event of a virus.” Hell, now that I think of it, that tie looks pretty geek big-pimpin’ too.

Robosapien and its “Evolution?”

WowWee Toys and Evolution Robotics inked an alliance deal last week. WowWee are makers of Robosapien and a growing number of affordable, surprisingly low-tech, and equally surprisingly, high-function (for the price and tech levels) robots. Evolution is best known for their ER1 robot platforms (which use your laptop as their brains) and their vision, pattern-recognition, and robot navigation systems.

Other robot geeks seem excited by the deal. I’m not as sure. I know that each generation of Robosapien and other WowWee bots are getting more sophisticated, and that’s as it should be. They’re building on top of previously proven technologies to create “smarter,” more versatile robots. Solid bottom-up robot development. So I get a little nervous thinking about marrying the lo-tek, largely analog ingenuity of Robosapien with the relatively complex, microcomputer world of the vision and navigation systems that Evolution trades in. I hope that this represents a real meeting of the minds between Mark Tilden (designer of the Robosapien) and his appropriate technology/BEAM approach and the software-minded developers at Evolution and not one where WowWee thinks they need to go all fussy-tech, with lots of digital bells and whistles, to make the next generation of successful robot buddies. Or do they?

I guess what I’m really wondering (out loud) is what Mark Tilden thinks about this deal and where HE thinks the future of Robosapien and its ilk lie? For sure, it’ll be interesting to see what happens next.