The Japanese manufacturer Aqua Power Systems Japan is producing Water-activated battery in the AA and AAA sizes, with larger sizes and capacities on the way. As far as I can tell, this is the only commercial offering of these batteries in the AA and AAA form factors.
Liquid is injected into the batteries via a pipette, where it combines with magnesium & carbon to form the battery charge. It's rumored that these batteries have a 10-year shelf life while dry, and can be reused several times. They have a 500mAh capacity (Standard alkaline batteries produce 1700mAh or more), which is sufficient to power a flashlight for a while.
Sadly, many websites are getting distracted by the fact that these batteries can be posted by urine. Discussions of this product quickly degrade into a kindergarten mentality, and there aren't many serious reviews.
While the 500mAh capacity isn't great, I can definitely see this product for use in emergency kits. I keep a couple of flashlights in my car for emergencies or for late night hikes. Often these 'long life' alkaline batteries are often dead (or leaking) by the time I use the flashlight, which I only discover a year later while trying to repair a flat tire on the freeway at 10:00PM in the middle of nowhere. This seems to happen even if I leave the batteries in the original package. The temperature fluctuations inside a car probably worsen this problem.
This battery could solve the 'dead battery', because it remains inert and inactive until activated by water. And I have water in my car and in my home earthquake preparedness kits.
Pretty nifty technology.
I remember reading about a similar 'emergency' battery when I was younger. In this other version the battery remained inactive until you needed it. The battery contained two chambers separated by a seal. Water is contained in the top chamber, and the carbon & zinc cells in the bottom. You twisted the top, which broke the seal between the two chambers, and activated the battery. This battery didn't seem to go anywhere, and I have no idea if it ever reached production. I can't find it anywhere.
The Alameda County Computer Resource Center is an innovative computer recycler in Berkeley, CA. They are an environmentalists dream-- all waste is reused when possible, the rest is recycled. No waste is shipped to questionable trash dumps overseas. Locally, the ACCRC provides computers to local schools and nonprofits.
During the Makers Faire in San Mateo, California, the ACCRC brought in tons of computer and electronic parts which were salvaged and reused for various projects.
Sadly, the State of California is threatening to shut down the ACCRC, mostly for failing to maintain an inventory of all of their computer equipment, and for keeping interesting/historical equipment onsite (a Computer Museum), instead of destroying the equipment.
I've been using ACCRC (and their predecessors) for years, and I've volunteered for several Linux installfest events using their hardware. I sincerely hope that State is able to work with the ACCRC and reach a compromise.
Update: 10/02 23:46 GMT by stefanlasiewski:
My journal has been referenced on the front page article Major Linux Hardware Donor Is a CNN "Hero", which is about the ACCRC founder and manager, James Burgett.
I had this journal entry sitting in my Wordpress blog queue for the last couple of weeks, waiting for the final edit. I saw the article about the ACCRC coming down the firehose, and posted it here since it seemed relevant.
According to NanoWerk, UC Riverside researchers have come up with a memory device based on telescoping multi-walled carbon nanotubes. According to one of the researchers, "This finding leads to a promising potential to build ultrafast high-density nonvolatile memory, up to 100 gigahertz or into the terahertz range" and a prototype could be demonstrated "in the next two to three years." Similar devices from UCLA and Caltech based on bistable rotaxanes are farther along in being integrated into actual memory circuits, but tend to break after a fairly small number of position changes. Carbon nanotubes may promise more durable switches.
The FDA has just approved for military use a shunt which allows partially-severed limbs to continue to get circulation. According to the article, "For most, it won't be a matter of saving a limb outright but rather salvaging the quality of a wounded leg or arm." This is because "The tubelike device is designed to connect the two ends of a severed blood vessel, providing a temporary bridge or shunt around a wound to restore blood flow to an injured limb" according to the FDA. "The shunt may save injured limbs from amputation, since it can be implanted on the battlefield to maintain blood flow until a wounded soldier undergoes surgery, FDA officials said. Since the start of the Iraq war, more than 500 soldiers have lost limbs, many to injuries suffered in roadside bombings."
Now that I've had a few days to recover, I can write up my vacation.
We started out around noon on Thursday, Jan 4th. I packed up the minivan that morning, packed the kids in, and away we went. Ahead of us was about 1200 miles and 22 hours of driving. My wife and I were equipped with an XM Satellite Radio, an iPod, and a laptop with EvDO wireless internet. The kids had a DVD player and a whole mess of DVDs.
The first stop was dinner in south Jersey, just short of the Delaware Memorial Bridge. As noted in my last JE, we were making most of our stops at Cracker Barrels. My wife and I are both dieting, and it isn't hard to make good choices from the Cracker Barrel menu. The food is a lot better than McDonald's or the other fast food choices, the atmosphere is kid friendly, and the prices are really low.
After dinner, I switched off and drove for the next stretch through Delaware, Maryland, around DC, and into northern Virginia. Unfortunately we hit this area around the evening rush, so we had to fight traffic.
After a batchroom/gas break, we changed the kids into PJs and headed back out. I got my first good nap while my wife drove to the North Carolina border. Then we switched again and I got us across North Carolina and into South Carolina.
My wife drove across South Carolina. We got stopped for speeding in Yamassee, SC. We were clocked doing 82 in a 70. Fortunately my wife had just slowed down after seeing a car ahead with its hazards on. She couldn't tell if it was on the shoulder or not, so she slowed from 100 to 82! The cop figured out the kids were sleeping in their seats, and managed to do the traffic stop without waking them. I think he felt bad for us, since he gave us a $25 seat belt violation instead of the $100 speeding plus points violation.
I drove across Georgia and into Florida. We had breakfast at another Cracker Barrel near St. Augustine. Our accommodations in Orlando weren't available until 4 PM, so we headed to the Kennedy Space Center and spent half the day there.
The kids really had a good time at KSC. They had dressed as astronauts for Halloween, and we took their orange NASA flight suits with us. We took a whole bunch of great photos of them in real space capsules. A big part of the KSC is the bus tours of the actual launch facilities. We didn't bother with those since the kids just wanted to run around after being strapped down for so long.
Then we made the hour and a half trip to Orlando. We were staying at the Liki Tiki, which I'd highly recommend for families with kids. The Liki Tiki is about 6 miles west of the Disney main gates on Rt 192. It has 1 and 2 bedroom timeshare condos, equipped with full kitchens, in room laundry, etc. It isn't a five star resort, but the place is clean and comfortable, plus there are several pools and a small water slide park right on the premises.
The best part, however, is that it is economical. We stayed 7 days in a two bedroom unit for only $350, or $50 a night. On top of that the kitchen is a huge benefit, especially when traveling with kids. The last thing we needed was to try to get an 18 month old and a kid a little less than 4 into a restaurant 3 times a day. In the morning, we could make some eggs or some pancakes and then go straight to the park. In the evening, we could come home and make some mac and cheese or a frozen pizza instead of trying to make two exhausted kids sit still in a restaurant.
BTW, there is a Publix supermarket about another mile west on Rt 192. In the same strip mall is a Papa John's Pizza and a surprisingly good Chinese takeout place. About another mile to the end of Rt 192, then a few hundred feet north on US 27 is a Walmart. Less than $100 in groceries took care breakfast and most dinners for the entire week. That is tons better than we would have spent in just a few days.
In addition, the laundry is a great benefit too. We didn't need to travel with a full week's worth of cloths, only a few days. Makes it easier to pack. I'd do a load or two of laundry every few nights and we were set to go. I also hate coming home with a pile of laundry, so it was nice come home with clean cloths.
After checking in and unpacking, we did go out for dinner. There is a large resort hotel just outside the Disney gates called the Gaylord Palms. The hotel has a huge atrium divided into three zones, representing three areas of Florida. One was themed around St. Augustine, one around the Everglades, and one around Key West. Each zone has walking paths, plants and animals representative of the area, etc, as well as a restaurant. We had dinner at Key West, at a seafood place aboard a sailboat floating in a small lagoon inside the atrium. It was a little expensive but worth it.
The first full day, Saturday, we spent the day at the Magic Kingdom. The kids had a blast, but my younger one isn't used to sleeping in the stroller and had a meltdown. We went back to our condo in mid-afternoon to let him nap, then we all went swimming. It was in the 80s so this was a nice relief form the heat. After dinner, we went to MGM. Most of the attractions suitable for preschool level kids weren't open in the evening, but we got to scout out the place some.
Sunday we went to Animal Kingdom. The Safari is an really great ride, BTW. We had a good time there, but again it was hot so we went back to go swimming in the mid-afternoon. In the evening we went to Epcot for a bit.
A quick hint about Epcot: As you enter the nations area, Mexico is the first nation on the left. There is a restaurant there with outside seating right next to the lake. Grab a table there about an hour before the fireworks and watch the whole thing sitting down.
On Monday we went back to Animal Kingdom. This day was really chilly. It made it to about 60, but the wind was really brisk. We didn't have enough heavy sweatshirts with us to deal with the wind, so we had to buy some.
Tuesday we went to the Magic Kingdom. The highlights today were the Indy Racers and the ever popular Pirates of the Carribean. The ride has been modified to include Captain Jack Sparrow. The modifications were well done. Traditionalists will not be disappointed. I wish I could say the same for the Tiki Room.
On Wednesday, we split our time between MGM and Epcot. We enjoyed several shows at MGM, especially since they involved the characters the kids watch on the Disney Channel. The kids got to meet the Little Einsteins, for instance. The behind the movies and the special effects tours were really fun too. By today, my youngest had figured out how to sleep in the stroller, so we were able to spend the full day there. The "Soaring" attraction at Epcot is a must-ride. Basically it is a large IMAX screen that shows images of hang gliding around California while you sit in an articulated seat, your legs dangling. The sensation of actually flying is accentuated by little touches - getting squirted with a few droplets of water, for instance, while you glide a few feet above the crashing surf of Monterey. You need to be 40 inches tall to ride, and my oldest is about 39.999 inches. In order to ride, he stood under the height requirement bar and the attendant tried to slide a credit card between the bar and his head. The card got stuck and he got to ride.
Thursday we went to the Magic Kingdom again. In the evening we had dinner at the Crystal Palace while Winnie the Pooh and Tiger wandered about. Then we watched the electric light parade and the fireworks.
Friday we packed up and drove to Homosasa, Florida, a town about an hour north of Tampa on the Gulf Coast. My wife has an Aunt and Uncle that live there and we visited for a day and a half, mostly relaxing and swimming in their pool.
Saturday after dinner we packed up and headed on out. The only highway near Homosassa goes in the wrong direction, so we needed to drive smaller roads up to Gainesville before we were able to get to an interstate. A significant chunk of this drive is along a stretch that has lots of deer activity so we needed to stay extra alert just after dark.
My wife drove from Homosassa to Gainesville, then I did the next leg up to Georgia. We switched of again and she got most of the way into South Carolina. I drove most of South Carolina, then she did much of North Carolina.
I drove the last third of North Carolina, then in Virginia we headed toward Williamsburg. My wife's college roommate is a grad student at William and Mary, and was just married a few months earlier. We met her and her new husband for breakfast at a place called "Aromas", which is jsut about a block from the Wren building, the original building for William and Mary, and still in use by the college. We let the kids run aroudn a bit before setting off again.
After that my wife drove to Northern Virginia, I brought us through DC - a wrong turn put us on I-395 into the city rather than going around, so I just kept going up to New York Ave and back out rather than backtrack. Then she drove us through Baltimore and I did Jersey and back home to New York.
We got home around 8PM. The return trip as about 26 hours total, including the extended stop in Williamsburg.
If anyone is in the market for a good family vehicle, the Honda Odyssey is a great choice. Last year we did this trip in a rented Chrysler minivan and the difference was astounding. We were so much more comfortable in the Honda. In addition, the Honda held the road well at speed, the Chrysler did not do well in a crosswind. The seats were more comfortable, there is a lot more storage space, and it is easier to sleep across the back bench. We were extremely satisfied with the Honda.
The internet finally lives up to its potential!
The Cracker Barrel website has a nifty tool at http://direct.where2getit.com/cwc/apps/w2gi.php?template=searchatw&client=cracker3 that will generate driving directions annotated with all the Cracker Barrel locations along the route!
A while ago I asked for opinions about building a Linux laptop for my son. This is a follow up to that, some notes for my future reference.
After looking around, I decided to go with the Edubuntu, an education related distribution of Ubuntu. Ubuntu had just released their 6.10 "Edgy Eft" release. Ubunutu has a great reputation for usability as a desktop OS. The Edubuntu release has lots of the games and tools that I would like for my son pre-installed.
I downloaded and burned the Edubuntu install CD, and used it to perform an initial install on the laptop I had chosen for this project - an IBM ThinkPad 600E. Thinkpads are so durable, they make great computers for kids. The install went fairly smooth. My PCMCIA ethernet card was identified properly, the video configured itself reasonably, and the system was very functional. The software included Tux Paint, Potato Guy, and a host of other games and activities that should appeal to a youngster. My one complaint was that the sound did not configure itself properly.
Apparently configuring the sound on the Thinkpad 600E is well known as a tricky operation. I tried a bunch of remedies. I disabled fastboot in the bios. (The bios is entered by pressing F1 during the boot process.) I added the kernel parameters pnpbios=off and acpi=off to the grub configuration. Nothing seemed to work.
After futzing around for a while, I decided to start from scratch. I rebuilt the machine with fastboot disabled and the pnpbios=off and acpi=off parameters during the install process, hoping that this would allow the install to discover the sound settings. It still didn't work.
After further poking around, I discovered that IBM provides a config utility called PS2 which can be used to, among other things, view and alter the configuration of the sound card. The utility only runs under DOS. The hibernate function of the Thinkpad 600E also requires a FAT16 partition to host the hibernate file. I decided to build a small DOS utility partition to host the hibernate file and the PS2 utility.
My CD burner software - CDBurnerXP Pro 3 - contains a utility to make a bootable cd. The boot process actually loads a minimal DR-DOS environment and maps it as "A:", and the contents of the CD are available as "D:". Not being certain that the IBM PS2 facility would run under DR-DOS, I found a Win98 boot diskette image and made its contents available on the CD as well as the IBM utilities.
Once I booted with the CD, I used the Win98 fdisk utility to create a 500 MB bootable DOS partition at the start of the drive. Then I formated it and transfered the Win98 system files, the PS2 utility, and some other drivers needed to mount the CD rom, etc. I attempted to reboot, but couldn't because the MBR still had grub on it.
I rebooted with the CD, then used the DR-DOS fdisk to overwrite the MBR. I rebooted without the CD and everything came up fine. I attempted to make a hibernate file with the PS2 utility, but that failed. The Win98 tools had built for me a FAT12 partition. I needed a FAT16.
I rebooted with the DR-DOS disk, partitioned and formated with the DR-DOS FDISK and FORMAT utilities, then loaded the Win98 system files and copied everything else over there. I removed the CD, rebooted, and was able to use the PS2 utility to create the hibernate file and check the parameters for the audio subsystem.
Now, I rebooted with the Edubuntu install disk and reinstalled on the remaining 5.5 GB. The grub config did locate the DOS partiton and correctly made an entyr for it. Sound still did not work. A little searching led me to this page. That successfully fixed my sound issues.
The default kernel was an i386 build, backward compatible to lots of older processors. The other "flavor" available to me was the i686 flavor, which can be used with Pentium II or better. I used the Synaptic Package Manager to de-select the linux-386 package and select the linux-686 package.
Finally, some of the web sites my son might want to visit use flash. I found these directions, which worked pretty much perfectly.
Finally, I created a user account for my son, and moved some links to things he might want onto his desktop.
Still to do, I want to reduce the number of services running. No need to run bluetooth, for instance.
One last thing. Like lots of older laptops, the battery was shot. I was able to trade the battery for a replacement at http://www.batteryrefill.com/. They take aged battery packs and replace the LiIon cells. The control circuitry is usually fine, even though the cells have failed due to age. The refurbished battery for a Thinkpad 600 series is $35 with a trade in of a non-working battery.
So Joe has been pounding away on OpenOffice Writer lately. He mostly likes to take things from around the house and copy the words in. Today, however, he made up a new game.
OOo Writer has a "paragraph background" feature that allows one to set the background color for that paragraph. Today, he made several blank lines and started setting the color for each. Starting from the top, he made a band of light blue, a band of bright yellow, about 5 more bands of light blue, then a band of green.
Then he called me over and said, "Look. I made the world. Here is the grass, the sky, and the Sun." I was shocked. It was very 20th century abstract art. Very cool.
I'm admittedly biased, but my son Joe is really bright. He is currently three and a half. A few weeks ago he asked if he could make letters on the computer. I opened up a word processing program and let him pound on the keyboard a bit. He's been doing this regularly.
About a week ago, I walked in and found this on the screen...
I asked him about it, and he said that he copied the letters from the label. (This is an old IBM ThinkPad) A few days later my wife walked in a found this...
When asked, he said he saw it written on mommy's laptop screen and typed it in from memory. Today, he typed in "Milk Duds" by copying the box from some Halloween candy. And right now he is going around the house finding objects with writing on them and typing in the writing.
My wife and I decided that Santa is going to bring him his own laptop. I have an old ThinkPad 600 that should be perfect, especially if I get a new battery for it.
He's currently playing on a laptop with CentOS running (a free derivative of RedHat Enterprise Linux). Is there any distribution particularly appropriate for young kids or should I build his machine with CentOS as well? Does anyone want to recommend a word processor for him? OpenOffice is a little heavy weight, and while he has been using vim successfully, that might not work well when he gets a little more independent.
Also, any recommendations for puzzle games? He likes playing snood, so similar games might be fun for him.
Naelphin (599415) has made you their foe.
I wonder why.
Three young pitchers? That sounds like something the yankees can use.
Is this the year that we finally witness the death of the BCS?
After Rutgers beat formerly undefeated Louisville last night the natural order of Div-I college football is at risk. The national championship should have been decided when an undefeated Louisville was faced the undefeated winner of the Michigan-Ohio State game. Louisville now has their first loss, and now six or seven teams can argue that, at one loss, they should be the challenger for the title.
But Rutgers is undefeated. Going into last night they were ranked 13, and if they finish out their last three games with wins, including a win against West Virginia, they'll probably be ranked in the top 8 or 6.
How can a highly ranked, undefeated team, a team who defeated the number 3 team late in the season, not have the opportunity to play for the championship?
Maybe next year we'll have a tournament.
God doesn't play dice. -- Albert Einstein