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« November 2007 | Main | January 2008 »

Happy Easter (Eggs), Kindle

Kindle_gps Just what every Kindle owner needs, a fistful of Easter Eggs for activating Google Maps GPS CDMA, a screenshot grabber, clock, fonts list, picture viewer, Minesweeper game, and diagnostic commands. All of these wonderful gifts thanks to the exacting reverse engineering efforts of Igor Skochinsky. The basic process for enabling one of these Easter eggs follows this type of scenario:

  • Inside the browser
  • Press Alt + 1 (one)
  • Google Maps will now display your current location
  • Press Alt + 2 for a display of the nearest gas stations
  • Press Alt + 3 for a display of the nearest restaurants

Skochinsky has thoroughly documented his efforts at unearthing all of the Kindle’s secrets in his Reversing Everything Blog. Watch our site in the future as we explore more Kindle hacks.—Dave Prochnow

(Image: Interface.Puhala.com)

Here Comes HERO, Again

Blackherobot Good news for vintage robot enthusiasts; Heathkit and its classic robot HERO, might be headed back from oblivion. This reincarnation is being disguised in the body of the 914 PC-BOT from White Box Robotics. Heathkit’s “Phoenix” robot will retain some roots with its pedigree, however. The Heathkit Educational Systems robot will be named HE-RObot. Built on a Mini-ITX mobo with Intel Core Duo microprocessor and using Windows XP for its operating system (unlike the model 914 PC-BOT which can be outfitted with Ubuntu), HE-RObot is being built and priced towards the educational market. A market that sorely needs a sophisticated robot platform. The hobbyist DIY market, on the other hand, could suffer from sticker shock. The HE-RObot’s 914 PC-BOT counterpart is priced from $5,000 - $8,000 which could make the HE-RObot a tough sell to even the most rabid roboticist.—Dave Prochnow

 

(Image: Heathkit Educational Systems)

A 2-Way Candlestick Holder

On2 David Weeks is at it again. That clever designer who brought you devilish desk lamps, funky floor lamps, and crazy chandeliers, now brings you the 2-way candlestick holder LED flashlight. Yup, when you dinner party goes awry and you need to throw a beam of light rather than cast some light, just flip your $40.00 candlestick holder over and use the embedded LED as a flashlight. Presumably, you wouldn’t have a burning taper in the holder when using the flashlight. Also, there is no comment on the environmental economy of using 3 AA batteries versus a candle.—Dave Prochnow

(Image: Velocity Art and Design)

Peruvian Children Get Wired

Xo After six months of operation, the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) “XO” laptop has logged its first major success story: Peru. Kids love ‘em, administrators love ‘em, parents love ‘em and Nicholas Negroponte is ecstatic. Loaded with approximately 100 copyright-free books (are you listening Amazon.com?), the XO has become exactly the empowering tool that Negroponte predicted. This success story is not without its minor hiccups, however. Although targeted for 9,000 Peruvian elementary, only about 4,000 of these schools have Internet access. Nonetheless, OLPC is working with Peru to surmount this obstacle.—Dave Prochnow

(Image: laptopgiving.org)

How to Make a Fuel Cell-Powered Car

Opener What looks like a refugee from Mad Max is really a modified RC car that runs on water rather than conventional batteries. This proof of concept project gives you some practical meaningful experience using a fuel cell to generate usable electricity. Why wait for the Honda FCX Hydrogen Car when you can build your own working model prototype today?—Dave Prochnow


TIME: 7 HOURS
DIFFICULTY: AVERAGE DIFFICULTY
COST: $132.23


PARTS

  • 1:32 scale RC Hummer (RadioShack #60-250; $9.99)
  • Double reversible fuel cell Fuel Cell Store #1158-7110301; $67.50)
  • 30ml gas storage cylinders (Fuel Cell Store #1172-7110307; $7.50)
  • (2) Clamps (Fuel Cell Store #1174-623002; $1.85)
  • 24” silicon tubing (Fuel Cell Store #1176-7110309; $3.25)
  • Syringe (Fuel Cell Store #803-620600; $1.50)
  • 5V DC to DC step up (Spark Fun Electronics # PRT-08290; $9.95)

MISC.

  • 3V solar panel (Fuel Cell Store #951-621500; $20.50)
  • (6) 2mm Banana Connectors (Mouser #565-5936-0; $0.70)
  • Hookup wire 22-gauge (RadioShack #278-1224; $5.99)
  • Distilled water (local grocery store; $2.00)

NOTE: All fuel cell parts can be ordered from the Fuel Cell Store. Links for the exact parts are currently unavailable.

STEP-BY-STEP

Step1 1. Convert the RC Hummer from battery power to fuel cell power. Install the 5V DC to DC step up circuit with the PCB modified for 3.3V output. Connect a pair of 2mm banana connectors to the input terminals of the DC to DC step up PCB. Connect the PCBs output to the positive (+) and negative (-) terminals of the Hummer’s battery box.


Step2 2. Fill the gas storage cylinders with distilled water. Attach two 6-inch lengths of silicon tubing to the cylinders. Plug the other end of the hydrogen cylinder tubing into one of the tube stubs on the black terminal side of the fuel cell. Plug the other end of the oxygen cylinder tubing into one of the tube stubs on the red terminal side of the fuel cell. Attach two 2-inch lengths of tubing to the two remaining hydrogen side and oxygen side tube stubs.


Step3 3. Fill the fuel cell with water by drawing water out of the 2-inch tubing with the syringe. Repeat this process on both the hydrogen side and oxygen side of the fuel cell. Seal these short lengths with two clamps.


Step4 4. Connect the solar panel’s positive (+) terminal to the red, oxygen side of the fuel cell. Connect the solar panel’s negative (-) terminal to the black hydrogen side of the fuel cell. Place the solar panel in bright direct sunlight. The fuel cell will begin to produce both hydrogen and oxygen by electrolysis. In a low winter sun, this gas production process can take approximately 30 minutes to fill the two 30ml cylinders.


Step5 5. When the cylinders are full of gas, disconnect the solar panel from the fuel cell. Connect the 5V DC to DC step up input to the positive (+) and negative (-) terminals of the fuel cell. The fuel cell will produce a rock solid 2.2V of electricity.


End 6. Switch on the Hummer and drive around. You should expect about 12 minutes worth of driving from 30ml of hydrogen/oxygen. When the gas is depleted, return to the “gas pump” in Step 4 and disconnect the Hummer and reconnect the solar panel for beginning the electrolysis process all over again.

Discover other, more practical, ways of using fuel cell technology to replace wasteful alkaline battery consumption.

The 2-Day Laptop Battery

Batteries The headline couldn’t be more attractive—“A Laptop 40-Hour Battery?” Alas, all this is just speculation raised from some juiced theoretical prototypes at the moment. Regardless, in the ScienceNOW article by Robert Service, a research team, lead by Yi Cui, a materials scientist at Stanford University, is cited as developing a battery anode from nanowire strands of silicon which can hold a charge up to 10 times longer than conventional carbon anodes. What’s holding this technology back from reaching your laptop’s battery? Designing a cathode that is equally able to hold a charge that is 10 times greater than current technology. Let’s just hope that these new 10x batteries don’t produce 10x-sized laptop fires.—Dave Prochnow

Join the Robotic Football League

Lineup Are you ready for some football? Robot football, that is. Well, let these bots do the gridiron game for you. Join the Robotic Football League (RFL). Founded in Westminister, Colorado by Active Innovations, this new sport brings teams of robots to a competitive field for some football. These aren’t just any kludged together robots, either. The players in this league are derived from the AI-O1 robot built by Active Innovations. Featuring wireless communications, a PIC microcontroller, and built-in voice, the AI-01 can be configured as a passer, receiver, and blocker. The $119 robot can also be hacked into a “dream player” with a $19.95 RFL USB to AI Adapter from SparkFun Electronics. Designed for 2-bot, 3-bot, and 6-bot rosters, the RFL could be coming to an open 8-x16-foot floor or HobbyTown USA near you.—Dave Prochnow

(Image: Active Innovations)

Announcing the PopSci.com/Bug Labs Build-a-BUG Challenge

Buglabs_600

We’re excited to announce that we’re launching a special PopSci.com contest with Bug Labs, the folks behind BUG, the open, modular consumer-electronics hardware and Web-services platform that you can use like Legos to build practically any gadget you can dream up. And even more exciting, the grand prize will be a BUGbase and the first batch of four BUGmodules!

Launching soon, the BUG platform comprises the BUGbase: a mini Linux computer with 128 megabytes of RAM, a 532-megahertz ARM processor, built-in Wi-Fi, Ethernet and USB, and a rechargeable battery. The first set of four snap-on BUGmodules includes:

  • GPS receiver
  • digital still/video camera
  • touch-sensitive, color LCD screen
  • accelerometer/motion sensor

With these cool capabilities in mind, the world is yours. What would you do with a gadget that can sense its location, has Wi-Fi capability, accepts input via screen or USB, can detect motion, and is capable of capturing photos and videos?

That's precisely what we want you to show us. For full details on how to build your ultimate BUG and win, continue reading below.

Continue reading "Announcing the PopSci.com/Bug Labs Build-a-BUG Challenge " »

Color Me, ASUS

41ibqdk0twl That’s right, the hot-selling ASUS Eee PC is now available in colors. Granted, this isn’t the flagship, Eee PC 4G model, it’s the 2G-Surf flavor, but at least you now have the luxury of selecting from three odd color choices: blush pink, sky blue, and lush green. Each color is served up at a tasty $299.99 from J&R Music and Computer World via the venerable Amazon.com. At first blush, that price and color might look tempting, but beware that there are more differences between the 4G and the 2G-Surf than just a 50% smaller flash drive. Missing is the built-in webcam and the 2G model also sports lighter weight 4400 mAh batteries.—Dave Prochnow

(Image: Amazon.com)

They're Here, err, There

41ziuv0hezl For you last minute shoppers, Amazon.com is now showing the ASUS Eee PC 4G-Galaxy Black as “in stock.” The list price is, well, list price: $399.99. You will have to hustle, though and select One-Day Shipping to have it delivered by December 24.—Dave Prochnow

(Image: Amazon.com)

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