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Breaking Up is Hard to Do

Xo Don’t think that you’ll be seeing Intel MPUs inside any OLPC XO laptops anytime soon. In a nutshell, the turbulent marriage between the AMD-driven world educational organization and Intel-driven world chip dominator is over. Intel has lost its seat on the OLPC board and won’t be lending a helping hand towards designing an Intel XO, either. In a statement issued by OLPC founder, Nicholas Negroponte, there are claims of competitive sales of the Intel Classmate PC distracting world buyers and general “trash talking” generated by the Intel sales force at undermining XO leverage in PC-purchasing nations, like Peru.

On a more positive note, OLPC claimed that the “Give One, Get One” sales program had generated over $35 million in sales. That’s a pretty good way to rebound from a failed relationship.—Dave Prochnow

(Image: OLPC)

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

First OLPC Review: All in a Kid’s Eyes

Specs_dimensions Well, the first “review” of the XO laptop from the One Laptop Per Child initiative has been published. Remarkably, this BBC-sponsored review was performed by a real live child. Although written by his father, Rory Cellan-Jones, the meat of this matter is supplied by his son, Rufus Cellan-Jones. What’s your take on supplying XO laptops to developing nations for developing the minds of their youth? Do you have firsthand experience with an XO laptop? If so, please post your observations in our comments section. —Dave Prochnow

(Image: OLPC.ORG)

Hacking Your Eee PC

Eeepc4g4 If you were nice all year long and your stocking is filled with an ASUS Eee PC on Christmas morning, then you are in luck. The “elves” over at EeeUser.com have been filling their server space with lots of hardware hacks, software mods, and user tips for this lithe Linux laptop. Case in point, two terrific posts:

That's right. With a little work, you can quadruple your EeePC's flash storage, add bluetooth, or turn it into that ultraportable Mac Apple has yet to develop (even though Leopard is probably a little poky on the Eee, reports are coming in that OS X 10.4 is quite usable). Watch How 2.0 for an in-depth guide to even more EeePC hacks coming soon. —Dave Prochnow

(Image: ASUSTek Computer, Inc.)

(Ir)reference Books For Office Espionage

Imageview Believe it or not, even after the debut of Amazon.com’s Kindle virtual book, there are still publishers of good 'ol fashioned pressed wood pulp that are turning the heads of techies and DIYers. From the publisher of Mama Knows Breast (Andi Silverman), comes a book list filled with irreverent reference books or "irreference" (sic) as David Borgenicht, president of Quirk Books likes to call his imprint.

This holiday season check out these “how to” titles: Cube Chic (Kelley L. Moore), Field Guide to Tools (John Kelsey), Pocket Dad (Dina and Bob Fayer), and the particularly clandestine Spy’s Guide: Office Espionage (H. Keith Melton, Craig Philigian, and Duane Swierczynski) for all of your workplace hacking needs. Happy reading. —Dave Prochnow

(Image: Quirk Books)

(Re)Kindling a Flame to Read


Sure it’s Thanksgiving week and you’d expect any major product release to be worried about turning into, well, a turkey, right? Hold onto your hat, because today is the day that one doozey of a product is being released. While digital e-book readers have been traditionally treated like foul fowl, a new venture from Amazon.com might turn the tide from e-book flop to electronic book wonder.

Known as Kindle, this is the Amazon.com take on the electronic book and it reads pretty good:

  • Sprint EVDO wireless connectivity--no Wi-Fi; plus no wireless connection fees or rate plans
  • Removable SD storage media; but purchased books are stored @ Amazon.com, plus unsubstantiated rumors indicate that you can’t transfer books between Kindles.
  • Lightweight; 10.3 ounces
  • Built-in book buying interface; typically priced at $9.99 each
  • Built-in keyboard
  • Includes bookmarks, search, annotations, and The New Oxford American Dictionary
  • Access to Wikipedia.org
  • Built-in newspaper, magazine, blog, Audible.com audiobooks purchase interface
  • E-mail retrieval of MS Word, HTML, TXT, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP, PRC, and MOBI format files

Priced at just south of four hundred bucks, Kindle seems overpriced to me (e.g., Sony Digital Book costs $299.99). Also, the price break for downloaded media (e.g., books, magazines, newspapers, and blogs (!??!) doesn’t seem great enough. And hey, how about including a Crossword puzzle game with Kindle? Whether Jeff Bezos likes to admit it or not, the future of Kindle could depend upon how well it can be hacked. Who's going to be the first to tether it's unlimited free EV-DO data to a PC? Then we'd really have a disruptor. —Dave Prochnow


(Image: Amazon.com)

A 1,250-Foot Tall DIY Lamp for Your Desktop


OK, so the final lamp is really only two feet tall, but it's modeled after a modern architectural wonder—the skyscraper. Actually, It's Amazing! Four Extraordinary Skyscrapers by Edwin Kiester is a great little bargain book from Barnes & Noble that doubles as a DIY lamp kit.

Each of the lamp’s four faces depicts a photograph of a landmark skyscraper: The Empire State Building, Transamerica Pyramid, Petronas Tower, and Bank of China. Sixty-four interlocking cards are joined together for constructing your desktop skyscraper. The now empty “book” box becomes the base for the included electrical lamp socket. Then clever little punch-outs aligned with windows let light from the internal incandescent lamp shine out and illuminated your cubicle’s visitors. It's Amazing! Four Extraordinary Skyscrapers retails for $7.98 from Barnesandnoble.com. —Dave Prochnow

Modeling Memories


If you’re in search of vintage (ca. 1935-1945) model airplane (e.g., Supermarine Spitfire, Grumman XF5F-1, etc.) plans (published in Bill Barnes Air Trails, Flying Aces, and Model Airplane News), then plan a stop at Ken Horne’s Web site. Packed with Adobe Acrobat PDF reprints from the great DIY airplane building magazines from America’s modeling heyday, this site risks filling your hard drive with way too many plans—all of which could take a lifetime to build.

Although somewhat dated (i.e., the last site update was 2004), this site does provide a wide smattering of 3-views, flying model plans, and solid model profiles that are worth investigating prior to buying one of today’s ready-to-fly foam kits. Supplementing this large library of bygone building plans is a healthy dose of folksy, pulp fiction av tails that can help fill those hours while you’re waiting for the glue to dry. —Dave Prochnow

(Image: Ken Horne)

The DIY Guide to Being a Boy

Dangerous_boysInspired by the field manuals and do-it-yourself guides of the 1950s—and selling up a storm in the U.K.—Hal and Conn Iggulden's "The Dangerous Book for Boys" is to be released stateside tomorrow. Presented as the missing manual for modern boyhood (and the book the Iggulden brothers would have "given away the cat to get"), the thick red tome covers everything from tying knots, making a tree house, and hunting for rabbits to quoting Shakespeare, communicating in codes and talking to girls. Scattered among the do-it-yourself gems are digressions on great historical battles, tales of bravery and courage, and valuable pieces of boy-knowledge such as a complete list of baseball MVPs from 1931-present and a brief overview of the history of artillery (Conn Iggulden is a well-respected writer of historical fiction known for the Emperor series, based on the life of Julius Caesar).

Having spent only a day with it so far, I must say I'm pretty addicted. Having come of age right along with computers and the Internet, it is pretty often that I daydream about what it would have meant to grow up without any of the things we have now. If you're worried about keeping a boy in your life of any age well-rounded, or simply checking off a few "this is something everyone should know how to do" items from your list, this book is heartily recommended. —John Mahoney

Update: After being out for a day, it's already the #13 book on Amazon's top sellers list.

Fun with Projectiles

Whoosh_330I'm allergic to potatoes. I know, weird. But that doesn't mean I don't love the idea of shooting one at high speeds out of a homemade plastic tube into the back of someone's head. Fortunately, Bill Gurstelle—PopSci pal and author of such DIY classics as Backyard Ballistics—has a new book that's bound to make your summer a lot more fun, and scare the crap out of your neighbors: Whoosh Boom Splat: The Garage Warrior's Guide to Building Projectile Shooters. From Bill's site:

With Whoosh Boom Splat, you can build:
* The Jam Jar Jet – the simple pulse jet engine that roars
* The Elastic Zip Cannon – a membrane-powered shooter that packs a wallop
* The Mechanical Toe – a bungee-powered kicking machine
* The Vortex Launcher – a projectile shooter that uses air bullets for ammunition
* The Clothespin Snap Shooter – the PG-17 version of a clothespin gun that fires fiery projectiles
* The Architronito – the steam-powered cannon conceived by Leonardo da Vinci

Check out his hilarious commercial below. —Mike Haney

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