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Crank Up Your Webserver 93

destinyX writes: "Lineo an embedded linux company and inventors of uClinux (microcontroller linux) produced an intresting 'batteryless' webserver." A very cool creative re-use! You never know when you'll be out in the desert with nothing but a convenient ethernet cable leading toward an oasis I guess.
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Crank Up Your Webserver

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    I vaguely recall a Discovery article a while back that said that given today's solar cells it would only take 100 square miles of desert to meet the US's expected power needs for the next 20 years. And this was allowing for space such as preventing one panel from shadowing the other, roads, service buildings et al. I could look up the article....but then again, I'm sure there is someone else that knows how Google works.
  • Hook it up to a water or wind mill, and have it serve a web-cam page of itself running. We should have enough power left to run a quick-cam, shouldn't we?
  • The reason that many computer geeks have an arm larger than the other is that they were early adoptors of "Portables" like the Osbourn and the Kaypro, which ran CP/M, and weighed in the 15 to 20 pound range!

  • Yeah, that is a much better way to go about it.
    The hard part will of course be physically
    arranging the appliances for such a demo
    and doing the solder work. But it would make
    a useful thing. Might do this in my copious
    free time, when I get some.
  • In science museums you'll find exercise
    bikes hooked up to lightbulbs to show exactly

    In my demo the appliances will also be hooked
    up to line power, so people can see their
    output compared to line power (and thus be
    humbled). No vomiting necessary.
  • Imagine a cluster of these in a health club somewhere.
  • by Apuleius ( 6901 ) on Monday June 18, 2001 @12:04PM (#142934) Journal

    Your exercise bike came linked to a dynamo, so that you could use it to store up power in an array of rechargeables, so you could then then use a Zener diode setup to bypass the power supplies on some of your appliances (when and only when the batteries were up) and power them with the sweat of your brow? You could have an array of Zeners for each voltage level on your radio or other small appliances, and it wouldn't take too much soldering to hook these up. It would make a really cool demo, especially now that Fornicalia is having rolling blackouts and other states may soon as well.

  • Correct me if I'm wrong, but if you made the spring and the crank larger (say 5 feet across) you could store much more energy in it, maybe have the it power the computer for a day?

    Then add a second spring-and-crank mechanism, and a way to 'hot-swap' from the first to the second and back without interrupting the power flow, and you could have a web server that would run continuously, as long as you remembered to wind it up every morning.

  • I understand that this guy created this cool demo in his spare time. Earlier in the year this same guy created another cool demo that used laser modem technology.
  • This would almost be great for power cuts. When the server gets shut down because of the power-cut lasting longer than the UPS this thing could kick in. The reason I said almost is because while this solves the web-server problem it doesn't sort the problem of the optical-copper bridge, which most companies have, loosing power or the gateway loosing power.
  • by austad ( 22163 ) on Monday June 18, 2001 @12:04PM (#142938) Homepage
    His site is slow, maybe he should crank with the other arm.
  • Now it seems that those "computer-types" have a reasonable explanation for their right arm being much larger than their left one.

  • by Mignon ( 34109 ) <> on Monday June 18, 2001 @01:16PM (#142940)
    Yeah, porn sites are already hand powered.
  • from: ex.html

    A hand-powered webserver

    Have you ever thought it'd be cool if you could have an environmentally-friendly computer ? I've always wanted one, I even powered my old ZX81 with a bicycle, a dynamo and a bridge rectifier circuitry once. Trouble is, even the poor little ZX81 needs a lot of pedaling to simply boot up.

    Then, on Friday, I came across this hand-powered lantern while browsing the net, and the idea clicked in my head : the manufacturer of this little gem ships it with a 3V 650mA light bulb (1.95 W), and the uCdimm from Lineo needs 3.3V 350mA (1.155 W) at most, so the lantern should be able to power a uCdimm confortably.

    So I called up a bunch of places here in Toronto and found one of these lanterns. When I came back to the office, our local electronics guru Sergey, our local geekhead Evan and myself took the thing apart, cranked up the spring and measured the voltage : without the lanterns' battery and light bulb, the internal DC generator spews out a heroic 5 V. Cool, that's perfect for a 3.3 V regulator and a uCdimm !

    So I spent the week-end cleanly ripping the guts of the lantern out (it's surprising the amount of electronics this thing has inside), installing a 3.3 V regulator inside, a serial port and an ethernet port at the back, rewiring the power plug that used to serve as battery charging port to power the uCdimm while working on it, rewiring the button (that is also a clever brake to stop the spring from unwinding when the lantern is not in use).

    The hardest was soldering a bunch of wires on the uCdimm's bus (man! those pads are tiny) and installing it nicely in lieu of the original light bulb and reflector.

    One nice thing about the uCdimm (apart its low power consumption of course) is that it boots into Linux quickly, which is crucial because the dynamo only provide a little over 2 minutes of power with 60 cranks, so every second spent booting up the board is a second lost that can't be used to browse.

    So here it is : the "uCdynamo", the first webserver you can bring with you and use in a desert :-)

    The uCdimm embedded in the front bezel, with a background image to make the whole assembly look a little better. The spring ran out of breath before I could finish taking the photo :)

    The side of the lantern, showing the business end of the muscle power supply. The button controls the brake applied on the generator's large pulley, and the reset line on the uCdimm at the highest setting. The power led next to the button now serves as "health" monitor, just like on the uCevolution board.

    The serial port, ethernet port and additional power plug sticking out at the back of the lantern.

    The guts of the beast. You can see the gears demultiplicating the huge torque and low speed of the unwinding spring into a low torque high speed rotation to operate the generator.

    Jeff reckons the generator has enough oomph to power an LCD display as well, and there's plenty of space left on the side of the lantern to bolt one on, so maybe we'll turn it into a hand-powered "handheld" some day :-)
  • I know that "cheap" and "embedded" don't usually go together, but there's gotta be an alternative to a $300 uCLinux SIMM []. I know that Dallas Semiconductor has a TINI board [] that is pretty cheap, but its dedicated for Java. So, does anyone know of any alternatives for small and cheap hardware that will run linux?

    Free Database Hosting for Developers []

  • by Mr. Slippery ( 47854 ) <tms AT infamous DOT net> on Monday June 18, 2001 @12:22PM (#142943) Homepage
    A better solution, though, would be to just use batteries. You will get a longer operating time and less carpal tunnel syndrome.

    The thing about batteries, though, is that they always seem to have run out just when you need them most.

    These hand-cranked gizmos are great for emergency or seldom-used gear, because you don't have to worry about batteries having been stored too long, or having run down. Maybe this would be a good way to power emergency-use-only cell phones? Crank it up to dial 911.

    Tom Swiss | the infamous tms |

  • by SirSlud ( 67381 ) on Monday June 18, 2001 @11:57AM (#142944) Homepage
    Finally, we can put all those fired silicon valley geeks back into physical slavery ... powering california's websites by rotating the handle. They'll finally be able to afford a meal and cardboard box again.
  • But not by RackSpace. By VA.
  • You may as well not use Zeners. It's likely that you're going to store voltage between 12 and 24 volts, in which case, switching (dc-dc) converters are more efficient.

    Zener regulator setups burn the excess voltage in order to get the proper output; switching converters will (ideally) only use as much power as the load is drawing (of course, it takes a little bit of power to run the switching logic, but that's no big deal). In particular, imagine that you want a 5V supply from a 12V battery, and further that you're drawing 100 mA. If you are using a Zener setup, you'll be pulling a full 1.2 Watts from the battery and only using 500 mW. With a switching power supply, you'll be getting the full 500 mW to the load; the control logic will likely use no more than 50 or 100 mW.

    Since storing energy in batteries at higher voltages is more efficient, the payoff is likely to be even greater than this.
  • That hardly ruined much, all it is, is 4 cages on polls.

    When I said "land is already ruined," I meant because of its proximity to a major highway. Between noise pollution and air pollution and construction equipment driving all over the shoulders every couple of years, the land immediately surrounding a highway is pretty much a wasteland. And no one wants to LIVE there, so how about some server farms?

    Anyway, you also have to consider that most of that land is indian reservation

    The only res on I-10 between Tucson and Phoenix is the Gila River community, and that only occupies about the first 20 miles south of Tempe. That leaves about 80 miles of non-res land. Of course much of that is already taken, but there are still huge swaths of empty space which could work for something like this.


  • If solar power was actually efficient enough in a power/acre manner to run a frickin' data center, don't you think they would have already done it?

    a) see "solar host" response below,
    b) I did a little investigating and discovered that there are Kyocera cells that claim to operate at around 126 watts/sq meter, DC, under ideal conditions (total sunlight, etc). So you need to shave a bit off for the inverter and to allow for un-ideal light, but even at about a 10% discount for EACH of those, you get about 400KW per acre. I don't know what kind of datacenters you'd be running, but an acre isn't really a huge site, and 400,000 watts is a freakin' lot of power.

    It would be waaay too cost prohibitive for anyone to even think of doing it.

    That, unfortunately, is a very good point. For an acre of the Kyocera cells I was referring to, it would cost a cool $2.1 million. Not gonna happen soon.


  • by rkent ( 73434 ) <rkent&post,harvard,edu> on Monday June 18, 2001 @12:16PM (#142949)
    Oh, man. I've been thinking for years that they ought to just cover the land in Arizona with solar-powered server farms and commodity solar "generators." At least along, for example, I-10 between Tucson and Phoenix, where the sensitive ecosystem is already ruined (my first site nomination is that ludicrous abandoned amusment park near Eloy). With 300+ days of sun per year, the power supply would be rock solid as long as you had enough deep-cell batteries to get you through the monsoons. And you could probably collect way, way more power than you actually needed over the area of the server building, and actually push some back into the Grid.

    It's win-win!


  • currently I am working on a companion device. basically it is a rotary motor powered by a gas engine which can be used to turn the crank. the only downside is that all my pets are dying of carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • No, no, the problem is, here in Arizona, the fricken' solar panels keep melting!
  • If you consider that nearly all web servers have UPS's, most of which are run by batteries, and lots of webservers are in California--probably more than you think.
  • Yikes! Moderators can now delete posts! Scary....
  • or do what I do, ride a motorcycle. Save less power (but still quite a bit), have fun doing, and get there faster. (especially if your commute involves the highway) - not to mention the time you can save by advancing slowly ( I said slowly damnit - some people are just crazy) between the cars in a traffic jam. (course bicycles can do that too - but still not on the highway)

  • Well happens of course. However most accidents are entirely avoidable if you keep your skills up to date.

    Most accidents arn't that bad either. Most damage comes either from wearing improper gear (just don't do that, the goo dstuff only costs a few hundred $$, will still be good after a crash (not counting helmets) and is comfortable at speed even on hot days), hitting objects (avoid them), or being run over by cars (hard to avoid yourself but...most cars hit the breaks when you go down)

    I went down at about 50 MPH about 2 weeks ago... came out of it with a sprained wrist and some chewed up pants (I wasn't wearing cordura pants - so I bought some since then).

  • Of course you'd have to augment the solar cells with batteries. Have the cells power the the devices and charge the batteries during the day, and use plain batteries during the night.
  • It's already been done to an extent. SolarHost [] offers web hosting powered by solar power. They are the people providing hosting for The Formula Sun [] website. (Formula Sun, incidentally, is a group of races across the USA in various solar powered vehicles. Shameless Plug [])
  • At full sunlight intensity, the sun outputs about 1000W/square meter. Most common solar cells right now are about 15% efficiency (although you can get them commercially at atleast 22%), where you'd get about 150W/sq. meter at full sunlight. That's not too bad, considering 8 sq. meters of these solar cells can propell a solar car [] at well over 100km/h.
  • Maybe this would be a good way to power emergency-use-only cell phones? Crank it up to dial 911
    In the very early days of the phone, people had to crank their phones up to get hold of the operater (similar idea, but lower tech, generator technology).

    Looks like we're within spitting distance of going full circle on this....

  • ...I'm going to Burning Man [], and have been considering a project with a bunch of embedded Linux-based devices. I was trying to think of a way to power them that would neither involve a noisy gas-powered generator nor a huge quantity of batteries. (Solar cells would work during they day, but night-time operation would be essential.) This may not be the right solution considering other design constraints, but I'm going to keep it in mind.
  • Heh, I'm not sure what "amusment park" you're talking about, but I'm guessing its that Family Fun something or another. That hardly ruined much, all it is, is 4 cages on polls. Besides if they got rid of that where would all the candy kids go to rub each other and roll around in the dirt. (Note: They used to, or maybe they still do, hold "raves" there. Though they were all over priced and half of the acts never showed up) Anyway, you also have to consider that most of that land is indian reservation, try to convince them to cover their land in solar panels for the good of the country's power grid, I'm sure you'll get a real positive response.
  • Huh, that's funny, I always used my left hand because the right was occupied using the mouse. Of course, I had a friend who moved his mouse to the other side, so he could use his right. Different strokes, I guess.

    The only "intuitive" interface is the nipple. After that, it's all learned.
  • That is going to take a bit more cranking. Above 12W is approaching something that needs pedal power.
  • Extend the axle of the handle out the other side and with some added blades I can turn my failed potato-powered web server into tasty hash browns.
  • This would have been the perfect item for the Y2K freak! They could have made millions!!! :}

  • . . . the orgaon grinder standing on the side of the street with the monkey collecting coins from passers by. Instead of playing music, though, this little dohickey (technical term there) will service HTTP requests. And instead of a monkey, you could have an ISP collect $20 USD a month for web hosting fees ;)

  • Umm . . . the machine does user "power" to operate. But I see what you mean about not wanting to introduce 120V AC or 240V AC power into a sensitive area. A better solution, though, would be to just use batteries. You will get a longer operating time and less carpal tunnel syndrome.

  • by TwP ( 149780 ) on Monday June 18, 2001 @12:25PM (#142968) Homepage
    To support your point, there was a story on /. a short time ago (sometime in the past two weeks) about a company creating UPS systems based on flywheel technology. The idea is similar - using something besides batteries or "the grid" to supply power to a machine.

    I'm all for alternative forms of power, but the things that keep holding everything back are twofold: (1) consumers are cheap and only want to spend as little as possible; (2) alternative forms of power (batteries, solar, wind, geothermal) are expensive and not nearly as efficient as good old coal, nuclear, and fossil fuel. These two things do not make a good combination for the embracing of more ecologically sound forms of power.

    But as you said, small steps to big goals! The best thing about this project is the creativity factor. These are the kinds of guys you want on your engineering team.

  • maybe that would explain why the site is down. someone needs to crank the handle again. gotta keep those webservers wound up....
  • You forget that there is a large chunk of that land that's Air force owned (drive during the day and you can sometimes see A10's making loops back to the firing range).
  • Ha! Yeah right! If solar power was actually efficient enough in a power/acre manner to run a frickin' data center, don't you think they would have already done it? It would be waaay too cost prohibitive for anyone to even think of doing it.

    Oh, and would the said datacenter specialize in Solaris administration? :-)

    < )
    ( \

  • Interesting. You are at MIT, but you obvoiusly belong in California ;-)

    < )
    ( \

  • its not just for java, theres a few developers [] who've written C programs for their TINI boards too...

    but i'd much rather spend $70 on a TINI than $300 on the uCLinux DIMM... especially when you know 3 weeks later its gonna be sitting on a bench gathering dust...

  • ...if you made the spring and the crank larger (say 5 feet across) you could store much more energy in it...

    You could apply more torque to the system with a longer crank, but you'd have to move the crank further, in direct proportion, to do so. Each crank would require a 15 feet circuit, applying force the whole way. Having a longer lever won't enable you to push harder. A pulley works the same way - to pick up something twice as heavy, you pull the rope twice as far.

  • He did it for fun man. The first electronic (well electromagnetical anyway, he used relays) computer was created by some German dude because he wanted to use it to do his math homework. I can guarantee he spent more time on the comp. than his homework woulda taken, but it was fun man.

    Same thing with this dude. If he spent his time trying to figure out a weird way of getting a low drain computer, more power to him. (Pun pseudo-intended).

  • "SIR! The webserver's down and the whole Beowulf cluster has gone belly up!" "What?! How?" "The rubber band broke!"
  • ever heard of 'proof of concept' ?
    its not that uncommon.
  • Hey, Olympic caliber athletes can put out about .5 hp, or 370 W. For a couple of minutes, then they throw up. Most fit people are closer to about 70 watts for short periods of time. So, assuming you have awesome power conversion system and are getting close to 100% efficiency, you could power a rather dim lightbulb, for a short period of time. Cool, eh? But not so useful - save your breath, and bike to work. Your car is less than 100% efficient, and extremely heavy, so you're saving ~20,000 W by riding your bike, versus generating 70 W riding a bike connected to a generator.
  • Nope, in terms of energy used per kilogram per kilometer, a human on a well oiled (not high performance, just well oiled) bicycle is by far the most efficient mode of transportation. Joe MTB on his bike is even more efficient, in terms of energy per kg per km, than a soaring albatross or hawk. Internal combustion engines are a really crappy, high entropy way of producing mechanical work.
  • Hehe... You can always spot the stories by Brits and Canadians (and lotsa other folks). For the confused folks, flashlight = lantern. My friend also gave me this handy guide:

    galloshes = rubbers
    elevator = lift
    french fries = chips
    chips = crisps
    crisps (those fat free things we have in the USA) = crap

  • You could hook up the winding mechanism to a treadmill, excercise bike, etc, and stay healthy with a daily 20 minute the same time recharging your servers!

    <sarcasm>God knows a lot of us geeks could use the workout. Besides, having to "wind up" your servers daily might seem like a chore, but all those poor M$ Windows admins have to reboot daily anyways, so when you think about it there really wouldn't be that much extra work involved...</sarcasm>
  • Although personally if I'm out hiking or whatever and I fall down a cliff and break both my arms, the LAST thing I want to do is stare at my emergency phone that refuses to work unless I crank it while causing shards of bone to fly off my forearms.
  • In related news, RackSpace has just placed an order for 7.6 million Hamsters.

    Ed R.Zahurak

  • Now all I need is to hook it up to a wireless net-connection that runs on potatoes. [] ;-)
  • From The Peace War High-tech, low power people bypassing the old-tech high-power nuclear limits of the Peace Authority.

    Still, I'd be more inclined to use a surplus 12.5v solar car battery charger panel, and some wet-cell storage.

    But, needs must when the DEVO drives...
  • The monkey plays Napster MP3s...
  • Lord help me, I think I can recall watching that episode of Das Bionic Boat.

    I've frequently wished for a selective memory eraser so I could reread LOTR for the "first time" again. I would use such a device to wipe most of SMDM, Bionic Bimbo, Bionic Bowwow, Star Lost, Battlestar Galaxitive, etc. If Ron Mark II decided to watch them again, there's always Ron Mark III. (Post-it to self: No, really, Do Not Watch Them!)

    I've been getting a lot of Funny, so I'll try to turn this Insightful: If you had a choice to selective erase something from your memory, and leave a note to "watch this" or "don't watch this", what would it be? Do you think you would listen to you?
  • Oh alright, whack me with an off-topic, I can take it.

    Dr. Demento would love it: Wind-up your web-sites!
  • I mean, honestly, where the hell are you going to find yourself with an internet hookup and a need to run a web server, but no POWER hookup?

    at the bush household, right next to jenna's fake id
  • Actually, there's a few tens of thousands of us who go to Burning Man>/a> each year who might find these very useful, since the entire event is held in the desert (on the playa near Black Rock, Nevada). []

    And those hand-cranked flashlights are kind of useful there, too.

    Maybe this might also have some kind of military application, too ...

  • Man, don't you hate when you forget to close those href brackets ... darn.

    Anyway, it should have been Burning Man [], but this will teach me to use preview next time ...

  • by tim_maroney ( 239442 ) on Monday June 18, 2001 @12:12PM (#142993) Homepage
    There have been crank sites all over the Internet for years!


  • Looks like they need to wind their servers up again.
  • Troll? It was a joke! Well, at least two out of three moderators got it (two +1 funny, one -1 troll). Who is the idiot that can't distinguish the difference between a troll and a joke? Oh well, I guess I'd rather have you moderating Slashdot than going out and reproducing... as unlikely as the latter seems.
  • by fmaxwell ( 249001 ) on Monday June 18, 2001 @01:28PM (#142996) Homepage Journal
    Maybe Nike could create a huge version of this that had a 10-foot long crank. It could then have third-world children lashed to the crank. The children would pull the crank (like dogs on a dog-sled -- but cheaper), to keep the Nike webserver running.

    Nike might even be able to do web hosting for so that Kathie Lee could showcase her clothing line on the web.

  • It wouldn't be hard to build a battery recharging device that runs off barometric pressure or changes in temperature, although it would require a very low voltage device. There are a few very rare "perpetual motion" clocks in history that used this mechanism to get enough energy to tick until their gears wore out (or, more likely, were take apart for various reasons.)

    Of course, this device seems to draw a lot more current.

  • In science museums you'll find exercise bikes hooked up to lightbulbs to show exactly that.

    Didn't they have a similar rig in Gilligan's Island? I remember they would run their washing machine and recharge the radio's batteries with an exercise bike.

  • I can't wait for an exercise video with supermodels working out with these! You could visit their sites as they are working up a sweat! They more hits they get, the faster they would have to... pump!
  • A beobike cluster?
  • Of course! Instead of a web-server, add a peer-to-peer client. Add wireless Ethernet and a Carusoe chip, and you can create the ultimate peer-to-peer network for the third world! Imagine it, paying small children to crank their little P2P stations all day in order to provide free MP3's or find the cure for cancer. It's brilliant. Why didn't I think of this before?

    Hang on. What? Time for my medication?

  • Hell, they are just coming to me now!

    Lets say you got a wireless thing in your city-you could run this in your car. Connect it to a windmill on your hood or roof (maybe several small ones).

    Maybe you have a boat? Using the right gear ratio that wind could be easily used to run this thing. Now just add a monitor or some other low power display and boom! Maybe not a web server, but a client that downloads data about [tides|weather|sunrise/fall|slashdot articles].

    This is what we need! Renewable energy computers. Hell, give me a solar panel, a few pentium 100's and we'll crack any task they throw at us - and now black outs.

    But I guess that would be the main use. Cali blackout - crank up the web server.
  • A guy on the Agenda [] VR mailing list is working on solar power for the Agenda. And Apache has been ported to the Agenda.
  • Sorry guys, but you're many moons too late for this to be new - Apple beat you to it in 1996, in the form of the ill-fated eMate 300 [] (incidentally, the first translucent Apple product) coupled to a Freeplay generator [], for the useful purpose of education and as written in this 1997 press release []. Furthermore, although the eMate (and it's parent the Newton) are long dead, the idea is still pretty much on the table with Apple, as this 1999 WIRED article [] points out. Who knows, with Apple seemingly interested in getting into the PDA market again, we may yet see this idea resurrected in commercial form.

    Long and short of it - screw webservers. Think of powering keyboard-equipped highly functional PDAs with these things.

  • Anybody know of something like this that will output 12 Volts at about 1 Amp?
  • of the 'missing' Pinky and the Brain episode?
    "Faster, Pinky, or my DDoS attack will never work!"

    "What are we going to do tonight, Bill?"
  • ...Until the 1U 'genetically-modified rodents and treadmill' model appears.You will surely need good ventilation though.

  • Dumb, sure, but you can get the full page with images quickly from dex.html []...
  • Technology advances in small steps, not giant leaps.

    Precisely. That's why I'm busy modifying the design to run on hamster power.

    Run my little children, run, run!


  • I saw an episode of the Six Million Dollar Man where Steve was on this old U-Boat (complete with Nazis). The power went out, but LUCKILY there was a hand crank that could be used to power the boat in an emergency. None of the retread Nazis that were on the U-boat could turn it (Presumably, only pure Arians would be able to). Good thing for them Steve Austin was there. He just fired up that ole bionic arm of his and they sailed home in style.

  • This is pretty obviously a blatant plug by the parent company of BayGen, LNUX, to sell their hand powered flashlights []. Bet tomorrow we'll see their parallel marketing show up on ThinkGeek. This is the same kind of stuff Viacom does with making Destiny's Child show up on MTV eating Popeye's fried chicken.

    The corporate leveraging is everywhere. Don't be fooled, and don't let them tell you what to buy.
  • Ride a motorcycle...and get there faster

    Except for those annoying occasions when you're splattered all over the pavement.

  • I guess you missed the big giant letters where it says
    We found that the software application's architecture determines speed results much more than the operating system on which it runs.
  • I went down at about 50 MPH about 2 weeks ago... came out of it with a sprained wrist

    Wow! 50 and only a sprain? That's amazing.

    When I had my motorcycle I can remember at least two occasions where a little extra bad luck would have left me either dead or wishing I was.

    People make mistakes. People get distracted. It happens. Once that happens it's just a matter of whether or not some other unfortunate thing is happening at the same time (like a driver of a car also being distracted and happening to come at you.)

    I happened today to hear Stephen King talking about his accident. He was nearing the crest of a hill when he was suddenly struck by a van coming the other way.

    It turns out that the driver of the van had a cooler of meat in the back seat that his dog was trying to get into. He reached back to smack the dog. Stupid, but being distracted in this way he did not realize his van had drifted onto the shoulder just as King happened to be approaching. As the van suddenly appeared at the top of the hill King had no chance, and was flattened and nearly killed.

    Had King been in the same place but on a motorcycle the result would have been the same. Had he been in a car with airbags it'd be another story. Same amount of outrageously bad fortune, but he'd have walked away.

    You may be the greatest motorcycle rider who ever lived, but you still are giving up some amount of life expectancy to ride that bike.

    (By the way, the van was on the road because the driver was heading into town to buy the Mars Bar he was craving.)

  • by ColGraff ( 454761 ) <maron1.mindspring@com> on Monday June 18, 2001 @12:27PM (#143016) Homepage Journal
    Imagine putting seti@home on one of these lantern computers, along with a wireless modem and Iridium hookup. You wouldn't even need a display, just crank in order to get a few of those oh-so-crucial work units out for Team Whatever. You could distribute these computers in third-world countries, and have massive computing power from millions of people just cranking these things a few minutes at a time.

    No, I am not being serious.

  • Twenty-five quatloos to the first one who adapts this device so that it can be powered by a rocking chair, thus freeing up one's hands* for typing.

    Note that this fits neatly with the theme of the recent Ask Slashdot item [] asking about ways to teach the Internet to seniors.

    * Hey! Get your mind out of the gutter!

  • I see a potential use in cases where you can connect to an ISP of some kind via line-of-sight but in an area that is environmentally sensitive such that you don't want to introduce power or where the interference of running power would be harmful to the conditions of an experiment. What this could do is allow a machine to do data sampling and serve it immediately rather than have it uploaded and then served. It essentially takes out a middleman.

    The more innovative technologies we can have, the more the inventive minds can implement those technologies is useful and beneficial ways.

  • Yeah it does and while I agree that by itself it is of limited use, I'm more referring to its potential in underlying technology implementation.

    Technology advances in small steps, not giant leaps. Unfortunately, to get to what appears to be those leaps, the small steps in between can often seem rather silly. But if we look beyond things as they exactly are and use something like this to say, "It's not quite right but if I added this one little thing..." then the technology advances.

    My major point was that this type of technology has some good use, even if the actually application still has kinks.

  • I'm really glad for all their engineers and stuff but... The time I plugged my computer into a potato never got any press.

God helps them that themselves. -- Benjamin Franklin, "Poor Richard's Almanac"