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Christmas Cheer Technology

USB Menorah 254

Fiver-rah writes "There's USB Christmas trees; lame acrylic things with LED lights that are powered by your computer. It's an amusing idea, but it doesn't really take advantage of being attached to a computer. Enter the USB Menorah. It can correctly calculate the dates of Hannukah for at least the next few thousand years (or any historical date back to 2 B.C.E.). As well as 'lighting' the candles based on when the sunsets (I set the default geography for San Francisco/Berkeley, but you can enter any latitude/longitude and (assuming you don't live too close to the arctic circle) it will be correct to within a few minutes. Furthermore, the shamas (candle you use to light the other candles) can blink out any morse-code message you want--it'll convert the words to morse code for you! And you can even put it into Kwanzaa mode! Each candle can take three different colors (Red, Green & Yellow), allowing you to do some animation. Software is a GPL command line program for Mac OS X. Basically only the USB communication stuff needs to be ported for other OS's. Delcom (the manufacturer of the USB interface chip) supplies drivers for Windows, and a few people have written Linux drivers, so it wouldn't be too hard for a motivated individual."
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USB Menorah

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 21, 2003 @04:12PM (#7780910)
    +5 Confusing
  • by fabio ( 78385 ) <gifbmp@@@gmail...com> on Sunday December 21, 2003 @04:13PM (#7780922) Homepage Journal
    i saw a usb powered toothbrush at some obscure japanes page, are there anything YOU cant power with usb?

  • by trotski ( 592530 ) on Sunday December 21, 2003 @04:14PM (#7780927)
    ... they need an industrial designer to make a candle stick shaped body for these suckers. A bunch of LED lights on a bread board a minorah do not make.

    Couse what do I know, I'm not Jewish.
    • as long as all 8 candles are at the same elevation, and the Shamash (the candle you use to light the others is higher), it's all kosher.
      • I think it's that the candles need to be in a straight line at the same elevation with the shamash out of line in any axis. But, yes, you're essentially right.

        The key word is candles, though, or preferably olive oil. LED's don't count as fire even for prohibitions against lighting fires on the sabbath or similar things and are certainly subotimal for candles.

    • by cliffy2000 ( 185461 ) on Sunday December 21, 2003 @04:29PM (#7781070) Journal
      Well, LEDs on a menorah could very well suffice, depending on the circumstances.
      I mean, the lighting of the candles might be awkward, but it certainly can be done. Judaism is not really so much of a methodical religion as much as it is a spiritual one.
      Of course, what do I know? I'm a very bad Jew.
      • Judaism is not really so much of a methodical religion as much as it is a spiritual one

        Um no:
        "On a theological basis, one of the differences between Judaism (as a religion) and Christianity is that belief is extremely important in Christianity. One must BELIEVE to participate in the religion, and that's about all one need do. Moral behaviour is preferred, of course, but one who behaves immorally but than repents and comes to BELIEVE is forgiven and accepted. Christianity thus modelled itself as a religio

        • Why do we do these actions? Because our ancestors have done them for 3000 years and, especially now, if they are not done, they will be forgotten.

          Wow, that's a terrible explanation. The only reason you do these crappy things is so that you don't forget how to do them. Is forgetting so bad? If it's so crappy, don't bother with it, and it won't be any trouble.
        • We do these things because G-d told us to. 3300 or so years ago we were given the Torah at Saini it gave us 613 commandments of things to do and things not to do. Those that can we still can do (there are some that are not done anymore) we do.

          For christians it is important to Belive. For Jews it is important to do the mitzvot.
          • There is not as much difference as you think.

            James 2:14-26

            Faith and Actions

            14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone claims to have faith but has no actions to prove it? Is such "faith" able to save him? 15 Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food, 16 and someone says to him, "Shalom! Keep warm and eat hearty!" without giving him what he needs, what good does it do? 17 Thus, faith by itself, unaccompanied by actions, is dead.
            18 But someone will say that you have faith and I hav

    • My thoughts exactly. He could make his own with plastic resin (avaliable at most hobby shops). Then of course the problem would be making a Minorah mold -- which now that I think about it really is a problem :D
  • Same kind of thing (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Kethinov ( 636034 ) on Sunday December 21, 2003 @04:14PM (#7780934) Homepage Journal
    This story goes well with this story [slashdot.org].
  • Anyone got a translation of the video he's got linked? I may try if I get really bored, but if there's someone who's got experience dealing with morse, it'd prolly be a lot easier for them.

    The Message [mac.com]
  • by lemonjus ( 717606 ) on Sunday December 21, 2003 @04:15PM (#7780945)
    The lamest USB gadget you can think of :

    1) USB machine gun
    2) USB umbrella
    3) USB Inflatable doll
    4) USB stapler ...
    help me out here...
  • by Faust7 ( 314817 ) on Sunday December 21, 2003 @04:16PM (#7780962) Homepage
    My FireWire Christmas tree beats the crap out of that!

    Though perhaps "FireWire" isn't such a good word to use in the context of combustible wood...
  • Why 2BCE? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by panurge ( 573432 ) on Sunday December 21, 2003 @04:17PM (#7780966)
    Why does thing go back to only 2BCE? The origins of Chanukah go back further than that, to about 2300 years ago if I remember correctly.

    I'm just curious. It's like a program to work out the day of the week on which Christmas Day fell that only went back to the time of Constantine.

    • Re:Why 2BCE? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by sigxcpu ( 456479 ) on Sunday December 21, 2003 @04:52PM (#7781213)
      The current Jewish calander is only about that old. (give or take a century).
      Before that the dates were decided apon witnesses of the new moon coming before the Sanhedrin. (the high court)
      So any exact date before that is meaningless, as there are no records for the length fo each historical month. (29 or 30 dayes - this is a moon month)
      • Re:Why 2BCE? (Score:3, Informative)

        by MobyTurbo ( 537363 )
        The current Jewish calander is only about that old. (give or take a century).
        Rabban Hillel II, if I recall correctly; but that wouldn't explain 2BCE, Rabbi Hillel II (not to be confused with his more famous namesake and ancestor, Rabbi Hillel the Elder) was at least early in the second century CE, IIRC, after Sadducees and other sectarians interfered so much with the Sanhedrin's ability to get truthful witnesses that the calendar had to be judged automatically.
    • Re:Why 2BCE? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Stigmata669 ( 517894 ) on Sunday December 21, 2003 @04:54PM (#7781225)
      No clue about the software limitation, but I learned a little about Chanukah from a Rabbi who visited my highschool Western Religious Cultures class.

      Apparently, there is strong evidence that the myth of the eight days was actually developed some 500-800 years after the events of Syrian oppression that began the Chanukah celebration. The Rabbi explained that the current theory (he is a Reform Jew if that makes a difference?) is that some religious celebration was not observed because the group of Jews were in hiding and that after they felt safe to come back into the open, that they celebrated over the course of 8 days rather than just one, and the tradition stuck. The Menorah was adopted as a Rabbinic invention several hundred years later, so perhaps it is intentional (or appropriately coincidental) that it only goes back to 2BCE.

      • Re:Why 2BCE? (Score:3, Interesting)

        by sigxcpu ( 456479 )
        We are not talking about a prehistorical time.
        There are outside confirmations that the battles against the Greek (Greek not Syrians) did in fact happen.
        About The candle lasting eight days, this is another matter.
        There is strong evidance that the religious leaders of later years moved the center of the story from the war victory to the re-opening of the Temple.
        This was done because they did not like the royal family, who were decendants of those who had led the revolt.
        • Right, that was the point of my comment. (sorry about the Greek Syrian mix up. Was it the Greeks oppressing in Syria? For some reason Syria popped into my mind) I'm not refuting the existance of the events on which the myth was based, but I am saying that the tradition of the candles and the accompanying shift in myth and moral, with all probability, only goes back to 2ish BCE.
        • Re:Why 2BCE? (Score:3, Informative)

          by MobyTurbo ( 537363 )

          There is strong evidance that the religious leaders of later years moved the center of the story from the war victory to the re-opening of the Temple.

          The war victory is celebrated with Al HaNissim added to the Shemoneh Esrai (daily prayers), and Birkas Hamazon (the blessing after a meal); you must be refering to the answer to "Mai Channukah" in Talmud Bavli, Mesechta Shabbos 21b. That does make the reason for the holiday occuring when it does and how many days it does because of the miracle - but our sages

      • actually, a lot of recent research and theological tradition has come to show that likely the celebration of hannukah was really a celebration of a decisive (yet very bloody) battle against the maccabes. it was later turned into a festival of light to help further the connection with a bloody battle, and instead connect it to a tradition of peace and friendship.
      • just because it wasn't in the book of macabees, doesn't mean it didn't happen. I would agree that the rabbis deffinitly did try to change the focus from a military victory to a purely spiritual realm, but not mentioning doesn't mean it doesn't exist and was purely a later invention, just that they felt it wasn't important enough to write down.

        We don't say the Illiad and the Odyssey were invented when they were written down, we accept that there was an oral tradition going back even though we have little i
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 21, 2003 @05:00PM (#7781265)
      about 2300 years ago if I remember correctly.

      Jeez, how old are you?
  • by DuSTman31 ( 578936 ) on Sunday December 21, 2003 @04:20PM (#7780993)

    While basically gimmics, stuff like this USB powered menorah and the USB toothbrush may be looked back on historically as the dawning of the pervasive computing age..

    Next thing will be to make them interface via wireless ethernet.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 21, 2003 @04:21PM (#7780997)
    Oy...and for this I sent you to MIT?
  • Planning (Score:5, Funny)

    by fiskbil ( 734457 ) on Sunday December 21, 2003 @04:26PM (#7781047) Homepage
    I hope the people buying this tree realize that they have to keep an old computer working for a few thousand years and pass that computer to their children and so on and so forth. It would be a shame to not take advantage of its ability to calculate a thousands years into the future.

    It would be really cool though if it could masquerade as something else when it's not christmas (holidays whatever). Both me and some of my friends are usually too lazy to take away decorations after christmas and you usually end with some smartass comments during summer.
  • lame acrylic things? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Scrameustache ( 459504 ) on Sunday December 21, 2003 @04:26PM (#7781048) Homepage Journal
    How about lame LEDs on a circuitboard?

    Jeez, if you're gonna be making fun religious hacks, don't knock the other stuff for being lame until your stuff doesn't look like it was ripped out of something else.

    Here I was expecting some fun candle-shaped thingy...
  • Up next (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 21, 2003 @04:31PM (#7781084)
    A dreidel with Bluetooth?
  • Menorah (Score:4, Funny)

    by mabu ( 178417 ) on Sunday December 21, 2003 @04:41PM (#7781142)
    Think anyone's going to pay retail for that?
  • I'm waiting for the USB dreidl. Now that's a fun idea!
  • for their UPS kept their menorah lit for 8 full nights after the Syrian army cut the power!

    Thus thou shalt celebrate for 8 days, lighting one LED each night.
  • by DJStealth ( 103231 ) on Sunday December 21, 2003 @04:54PM (#7781223)
    (For those who are interested)

    Although, most people who use this would probably know that this should not be intended to replace the actual lighting of a menorah.

    In order to fulfill the religious requirement of lighting the menorah for the 8 nights of Chanukah, you need to use either candles or olive oil (to burn). (the other requirement is that all the candles except for the one used to light the others, must be at the same height)
    • Those rules were made by people. I'd guess that originally, only olive oil was permitted, and that it took a while before candles (which were the high-tech lighting method) were allowed.
  • "Menorah..." (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BTWR ( 540147 ) <americangibor3@yahoo.COUGARcom minus cat> on Sunday December 21, 2003 @05:18PM (#7781399) Homepage Journal
    Just to be precise, the device that is used during Hannukah is not a "Menorah," but rather a "Chanukiah" [Chah-noo-kee-yah, with "Ch" pronounced gutterally]. A "menorah" is the seven-branched candelabra that was around in the ancient temple (and often used today in synagogues as decorations). A "Chanukiah" is a nine-branched candelabra that is used on Hannukah to celebrate the 8-day "hannukah miracle," where legend had it the temple candles burned for 8 days and nights with oil that should have only lasted one night (so therefore a chanukiah has 8 candles plus one candle to hold the shamash, the candle that lights the other 8). Sometimes the nine-candled version is called a "Hannukah Menorah," but just "Menorah" is technically the seven-branched one, not the one used druing the holiday.

    No, I'm not someone who goes around correcting people about this. I really don't care either way, but rather just in case anyone was interested...
    • There is that story about Hannukah, the more practical one as well is that after the Temple was reclaimed from the Syrian army, the liberators of the temple (or the Maccabees (sp?)) forgot to celebrate Sukkot (a 7 day holiday in the Jewish calendar that is the months before Hannukah give or take). So they made up for the lost holiday over that time.

      Sukkot for those of you who are wondering is the 7 day holiday commemorating the wandering the Jews did in the Sinai Peninsula for 40 years. Using temporar
      • as far as skeptics go, I always felt the "Hannukah Miracle" was the most believable if someone doesn't believe in that sorta stuff. I mean, how many times in history has a big army been beaten by a smaller army? And the whole oil lasting a week thing, while very difficult, doesn't require a parting-the-seas or flooding-the-world level of supernatural powers.
  • by tjstork ( 137384 ) <todd...bandrowsky@@@gmail...com> on Sunday December 21, 2003 @06:02PM (#7781688) Homepage Journal

    All this religious stuff, and here Chris Kringle is getting oppressed! I want my USB RUDOLPH
  • by EdMcMan ( 70171 ) <moo.slashdot2.z.edmcman@xoxy.net> on Sunday December 21, 2003 @06:07PM (#7781706) Homepage Journal
    Holiday Fesitivities
    ---
    USB Menorah (Y/M/N) Y

    Why not?

  • Wow (Score:4, Funny)

    by Laconian ( 578463 ) on Sunday December 21, 2003 @07:21PM (#7782167)
    That's the nerdiest thing I've ever heard about. Seriously. And I've used /. for almost six years.
  • Splitting hairs (Score:3, Interesting)

    by fleener ( 140714 ) on Sunday December 21, 2003 @08:24PM (#7782530)
    Not to split hairs or anything, but plenty of Jewish people wouldn't touch a USB menorah because they forego use of electronics on holy days. Also, no one lights menorahs during Hanukkah. They're called hannukiahs [caje.org]. A menorah has a completely different spiritual meaning and was kept lit in the Jerusalem temple. People like hannukiahs at home.
    • Re:Splitting hairs (Score:3, Informative)

      by MobyTurbo ( 537363 )

      Not to split hairs or anything, but plenty of Jewish people wouldn't touch a USB menorah because they forego use of electronics on holy days.

      On Channukah, except on those days that fall on Shabbos, handling electricity, going to work, driving a car, etc, are all allowed. Although important, important enough to warrent the majority of the seven non-biblical commandments, Channukah does not have the status of a "chag" or festival, such as Pesach or Rosh Hashanna, so most activities are permitted - though man

  • Kosher elevators (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Animats ( 122034 ) on Monday December 22, 2003 @02:27AM (#7784143) Homepage
    There are Kosher elevators. Really. Two features are required, and both operate only on the Shabbat. The elevator runs endlessly, stopping on every floor. No user interaction is allowed.

    The other required feature is that regenerative braking isn't allowed to dump power back into the power line. It has to dump it into a resistor bank, so as not to do "work" with the energy of descending riders. This is normally enabled only on the Sabbath.

    Of course, these features combine to use far more energy than normal mode, so they don't comply with the spirit of the Shabbat, not to do work. Just the letter.

    • There's a whole industry for Shabatt workarounds.
      • "Ask the Rabbi" [ohr.edu] describes the problems of the Kosher elevator.
      • Here's a Shabbat-compliant countertop water heater. [ecdp.org] Because it's an always-on heater, it's considered OK.
      • Wired [wired.com] has covered this. The Internet has been banned by the ultra-Orthodox leadership in Israel. They don't like TV, either. (The extreme Muslims, the extreme Christians, and the extreme Jews have rather similar positions on this.)
      • There's a certification authority for this stuff, t
  • Hmmm... This sounds like a very innovative product: LEDs that were supposed to have an MTBF of 100,000 years lasted 800,000 years. That's a miracle if you ask me.

    One thing this product doesn't do though... it doesn't sing the blessings for you. It should at least have a karaoke mode.

  • A USB Mohel?

    Input the parameters pertaining to the size of the infant in question and bada boom bada bing, the unguarded fan blade does its work.

    No thanks. I'll pass.

That's the thing about people who think they hate computers. What they really hate is lousy programmers. - Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle in "Oath of Fealty"

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