How can we expect computers to make a proper match when people can't even accomplish the task? The internet was quick to point the finger to Sunil Tripathi, and all they ended up doing was cause unnecessary pain for the family of a missing person.
You'd be surprised where 3d printing has gone in the last few years. Maybe it's not to the point that your clock project would be feasible today, but well tuned homebrew 3d printers already surpass the accuracy and resolution of many commercial printers. Check this out as an example. The technology is improving and becoming more accessible. If you told someone looking at the first Altair that one day they'd use a similar machine to share intimate details of their lives with strangers on the other side of the planet they probably wouldn't have believed you, but here we are.
There is absolutely no reason in with today's technology that we can't have real video on demand. There is no reason I shouldn't be able to watch any show I want, whenever I want. If the providers want to include commercials, then so be it, but they're delaying the inevitable and forcing people into piracy with limited availability of programming online and by only allowing viewing within a limited window. The major television providers now offer "on demand" services, but these have serious limitations. All they're doing is giving people a taste for what could be. A cable company that offered true video on demand could absolutely clean up in the market, but the content providers are far to unwilling to shift their business models to match the desires of consumers. 50 years from now, children will express disbelief when told that you had to wait for a specific time to watch your favorite program, much like I had a hard time I had as a child grasping that television used to be only black and white.
Just to clarify what seems to confuse some people here, the actual service doesn't use the SSID for location, it uses the MAC address. They're using the SSID to allow you to opt out, but when someone submits WIFI info for location, they're sending the mac address of the station, not the SSID. MAC addresses are unique (or at least they're supposed to be. I'm looking at you Shanzai.) SSIDs are not unique. If they used SSIDs, you'd never be able to figure out where "linksys" or "netgear" actually are.
Astoundingly easy because you can't do a lot of things. Want sockets? Denied - but feel free to re-architect everything to mesh into their web framework and you might be able to get the job done.
The real world doesn't support your "withering on the vine" argument:
I've done some development on Android and I don't think I'd agree that it's a horrible platform. There are plenty of things to pick apart, and it can be tiring figuring out the way Google wants you to do certain things, but it doesn't seem any worse than learning any new API. Generally my code works on 80+% of the devices out there the first time I test it after debugging. From there it's usually small tweaks, and the bugs generally stem from me not doing things according to best practice. It's not unlike developing websites to some degree. You'll do tons of cool CSS hacks, only to realize it doesn't work right in IE. As you get more experienced, you know to stay away from problematic areas. Android development is similar in many ways. Perhaps frustrating at first, but with experience you can write code that works everywhere the overwhelming majority of the time.
Sure they've done some work to reduce power consumption, but the Ipads big secret is still the fact that it has a FREAKING enormous battery in it. Hell, the battery in my core 2 duo 16" laptop has less capacity at 4400 mah than the ipad's 6600.
I've written a few small games for Android. They're all free and ad supported, and the advertising networks want as much data as they can get. Even with all that, they don't pay all that well. One of my apps gets as little as $.16 per 1,000 ad impressions. I'd love to skip the ads, but my apps really aren't good enough to charge for, at least this way I get something out of it. It's not like the developers are getting rich on your personal data, perhaps the networks are or developers who are lucky enough to get a lot of exposure, but it's a rough world for the little guys looking to compete. I'm glad it's just a hobby for me.
Since it doesn't sound like you're planning to actually run any production software on this machine, just about anything will do. Memory will probably be your biggest need, so at least two or three gigs might be in order. Disk space is cheap, and processor power probably won't matter too much for experimenting. As far as shared disk, try iscsi target mode, it's supported on most Linux distributions, and it works with most cluster software.
Make your receptacle able to hold a mini usb cable, but wider. Place your special pins outside the area occupied by the mini usb cable. Someone who wants to just charge it can use a standard adapter, and someone who wants the extra features can still get them. Kind of like how you can put an RJ11 plug into an RJ45 jack.
Hey, maybe this post will prove the obviousness of such a solution if someone goes and tries to patent this at least.
This one goes to 11
They named this thing "Sakshat" It's just begging for Goatse comments.