Crunch Gear offers up the next LBS device. The SPOT Communicator is a GPS unit that can send your current position via satellite. The press release shows that the target market is the outdoor enthusiast and field workers who are often outside of cell range. Battery life is pretty good given the lack of screen, just four buttons: Help, On/Off, OK, and 911. Given its orange case, it is great if you want to add a bit of safety in hunting season.
The first bit of GPS news out of CES this year has Magellan releasing the Maestro 5340 which will include GPRS for cell network connectivity. This network connectivity will be used to connect to…you guessed it…Google search and data services. At almost $1300 for the unit it will not be for small of purse, and don’t forget the charge for the GPRS connection.
Japan has set a target to increase it’s number of solar powered houses to 14 million by 2030. It’s a fairly lofty goal. The exceptionally noteworthy part of this is that Japan is focusing on reducing the costs of panels, increasing the power output, and increasing the ease of installation. Since Japan produces roughly half the solar panels in the world, hopefully some of these improvements will find their way to other shores. I know I looked at solar panels for my house a couple of years ago when I was building. It just wasn’t cost effective for our area at the time. Hopefully with the rising price of electricity, these potential improvements will be a big boon!
Engadget is reporting a pretty cool device that projects navigation information on your windshield. The navigation is really nothing more than a red line indicating which direction you should travel. The nice thing is that it places the line into your real world context, plus it doesn’t require the driver to take his or her eyes off the road. The company that makes the product, Making Virtual Solid, says it can be implemented for around $400. No working demos quite yet, but hopefully there’s something available in the coming year. It’s a pretty cool idea if they can get it implemented!
Engadget is reporting a news item that the UK is planning on powering all the home in Britain via off shore wind power by 2020. That’s a pretty ambitious project. The interesting portion of this is the off shore wind farms, which have been in use in Europe for upwards of a couple decades. The US has been rather slow to adopt off shore wind farms for a variety of reasons. Hopefully plans like these – even if ultimately unsuccessful – will spur the US to explore the technology further.
I’ll be keeping an eye on this project, as I’m a HUGE proponent of offshore wind energy.
Fairly old news, but I was just adding some widgets to my Chumby and found that someone has finally made a Yahoo! Maps widget. Since the Chumby runs Flash-based widgets it was to be expected Yahoo! would be the first to show up. I am still hoping that Loki will decide to build a widget for the Chumby for the location-based goodness
There are only a few days left in a great promotion over at the One Laptop Per Child project where for $399 you donate a laptop to a child overseas AND get one for yourself (to keep or give away…your choice). An added bonus is that T-Mobile is offering one year of wireless access on their Hot Spot wifi network . You only have until November 26th to take advantage of the promotion.
So, the next multitouch to market is Jeff Hann’s wall (first shown at the Ted conference a couple of years ago). I am not sure that at $100,000 it is for most in the geospatial industry, especially since the TouchTable has been around for a couple of years. After playing with the iPod Touch I know that multitouch is the way it is going…and while Microsoft’s Surface promises a lower cost entry point for the large multitouch systems, will it be sold through Neiman Marcus?
I came across Zonbu on a couple of tech blogs today and was curious about the many claims…inexpensive, green, silent, data service. After wandering the website it actually looks promising for folks who have minimal computing needs. It runs on a Linux variant and is preinstalled with your standard software: Firefox, OpenOffice, IM, Skype, but it is locked down. No installing your own software, not that there is much room to do so since it has no hard drive so your OS and apps live on 4GB of flash memory and your files live on the Zonbu servers. They offer multiple plans for storage which are pretty reasonable and I wouldn’t be too surprised if folks didn’t buy it more for the accessibility of data (you can log in to your Zonbu account from any computer).
With a 2 year account the little machine is $99, but you can buy it out right for $250 which is where things get interesting. There are plenty of USB ports for external drives and if you aren’t connecting to the Zonbu servers there shouldn’t be a problem with formatting the drive and putting your OS of choice on the system (as long as it is less than 4GB, or if the box can boot to USB). There is no hard drive or DVD/CD and it runs a low power processor so there is no need for a fan (very important if you are recording a podcast). So all in all it seems to live up to its hype and looks imminently hackable.
I finally got tired of lugging my Thinkpad around, and decided that I needed to somehow get an even smaller, lighter portable device, yet with full laptop capabilities. So, I managed to spend all my money on an OQO Model 02, which is the ultimate in geeky tech. It is part of a new family of devices known as UMPC (UltraMobile PCs). My OQO is a mere 5.6″ x 3.3″ x 1.0″, but packs in a 1.5GHz VIA processor, 1 GB of RAM, and a 60 GB hard drive. It runs a full installation of Windows XP (and you can buy models that come with Windows Vista), and is basically a laptop PC in a tiny package that weighs just around a pound.
The OQO is really for the techie on the go. It has built-in wireless and Bluetooth and you can pay more for integrated Wireless WAN and other options. If you want to know the specs in more detail, the OQO website has everything. Now, on the more cool part. I decided to see what the OQO could really do in terms of letting me do my work on the go, so we installed a full ArcGIS including extensions (see ArcGlobe and ArcMap running on a 5 inch screen is a little weird). Then, during one of the morning breaks at ISDE5, I decided to take advantage of the wireless in the room and see what I could play with. I downloaded ArcGIS Explorer, Google Earth, and the plugin for Virtual Earth 3D. Then I decided to see if I could in fact run them. I was a little surprised that ArcGIS Explorer seemed the least fazed by the little screen and so-so resolution, and the only real slowdown I noticed was in relation to the network. I had no real trouble navigating around in Virtual Earth 3D, although the 3D buildings in San Francisco did not have time to load fully, and I don’t know if the OQO display graphics are really capable of handling the textures. Google Earth was the last globe I had time to try, and it of course told me that I might not want to run it on such a low resolution screen (I believe 800×480), but when I actually went ahead and started, we did OK and I tried out a few info windows and such.
Overall, I love my OQO and it’s exactly what I hoped it would be. It’s not for everyone, however. The tiny screen and lower resolution might bug some people and the keyboard is small, so effective typing pretty much has to be BlackBerry-style. So, even though I didn’t really intend this post to be a review of the OQO Model 02, if mobility and connectivity matter to you, you should definitely check it out.