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Monthly Archives: January 2008

Mustek DV300T Candybar-Style Digital Video Camera

Mustek DV300T (Images courtesy Mustek)
By Andrew Liszewski

It might look like another boring candybar-style cellphone, but the DV300T from Mustek is actually a compact digital video camera. While the 2-inch LCD screen is not as convenient as the pop-out swivel screens on other tapeless video cameras, the DV300T seems to be going for a slim design over everything else.

It includes a standard VGA CMOS sensor which is fine for capturing near-NTSC or PAL quality video, but for still photos the images are actually interpolated to a resolution of about 3.1 megapixels, which isn’t exactly ideal. Since the lens is fixed, you have to rely on an 8x digital zoom for getting in closer to the action, but the DV300T at least includes some level of digital image stabilization to help improve your footage. On-board you’ll only find about 64MB of memory, but it will accept SD cards allowing you to considerably expand the amount of storage. Of course Mustek has also thrown in voice recording, MP3 and even eBook functionality, but what doesn’t have those these days?

Unfortunately I can’t find any pricing info for the DV300T, but given the basic VGA sensor and the paltry amount of on-board memory, I can’t imagine it will be that expensive.

[ Mustek DV300T Digital Video Camera ]

New Highly Efficient ‘Solar Panels’ Could Work Day And Night

Steven Novack with Nanoantenna Arrays (Images courtesy INL)
By Andrew Liszewski

Current commercial grade solar panels are only able to transform about 20% of the usable energy that strikes them into electricity. And while the most complicated and expensive panels are a bit better, operating at about 40% efficiency, there’s obviously room for improvement. So researchers at the Idaho National Laboratory working with Microcontinuum Inc. and the University of Missouri are hoping a new type of solar panel made with nanoantennas could be the next breakthrough.

The new approach, which garnered two 2007 Nano50 awards, uses a special manufacturing process to stamp tiny square spirals of conducting metal onto a sheet of plastic. Each interlocking spiral “nanoantenna” is as wide as 1/25 the diameter of a human hair.

Because of their size, the nanoantennas absorb energy in the infrared part of the spectrum, just outside the range of what is visible to the eye. The sun radiates a lot of infrared energy, some of which is soaked up by the earth and later released as radiation for hours after sunset. Nanoantennas can take in energy from both sunlight and the earth’s heat, with higher efficiency than conventional solar cells.

The researchers predict that each nanoantenna could absorb close to 80% of the available energy, but there’s still research needed to perfect the design. While they can simulate how one nanoantenna will perform, things get a bit different when you cram about 10 million of them into a 6-inch circle. But the possibility of having a highly-efficient solar panel that’s as thin and flexible as plastic wrap, and as cheap as inexpensive carpet is very encouraging.

[ Harvesting the sun’s energy with antennas ] VIA [ EcoGeek ]

R2D2 Peppermill – “These Aren’t The Spices You’re Looking For”

R2D2 Peppermill (Image courtesy ThinkGeek)By Andrew Liszewski

Even though I have no actual sales numbers, I can only assume the Star Wars Poker Set I wrote about the other day is a popular item, if only because it’s Star Wars themed. But can the same be said for an R2D2 Peppermill? Well I think it’s safe to assume there’s a large chunk of the population who will go out of their way to procure an R2D2 themed peppermill instead of a regular model.

And who can blame them? All you have to do is twist R2’s domed head and delicious freshly ground pepper will fall from his undercarriage. It’s guaranteed to take any meal from just delicious, to R2D-licious. (Awful.) In fact, if those Jawas had realized how useful R2 could have really been, they never would have sold him to Skywalker.

You can find the R2D2 Peppermill at ThinkGeek for $19.99.

[ R2D2 Peppermill ]

This Mouse May Be Used As A Flotation Device

Inflatable Mouse
By Luke Anderson

Do you ever have issues fitting all of your gear into your gadget bag? I tend to carry more than I probably should, so I’m constantly searching for smaller gadgets to take with me. This inflateable mouse has to be one of the most bizarre devices made to keep your travel bag light.

The idea is that you can still have a full sized mouse when you need it, but have it only take up minimal space. When it’s deflated, you can just stick it under the lid of your laptop and you’re good to go. Of course on the flip side, you’ll be the butt of jokes everywhere as you blow up your mouse. I’m sure there are some people out there that would find this interesting to use, but I’d certainly pass.

VIA [ Yanko ]

Mr. Burns Is Watching You

Mr. Burns WebcamBy Luke Anderson

I’ve been a fan of the Simpsons for years. I’m not obsessed, nor do I own a single piece of Simpsons memorabilia (not since the Bartman shirt I had as a kid). However, I know several people whose love for the yellow citizens of Springfield know no bounds. This webcam is perfect for them.

This cam bears the likeness of evil businessman Mr. Burns. He is wearing one of his pleasant scowls whilst sitting at his desk. The front of his desk is the cam which captures 30fps at 640 x 480. It’s compatible with Windows 98 and up and plays nicely with Skype, MSN, AIM and Yahoo messengers. I’m not quite sure why someone would want Mr. Burns scowling at them all day, but you’re welcome to fork out $49.99 to have just that.

[ ThinkGeek ] VIA [ UberGizmo ]

Girlfriend Proximity Equals Extra 8-Bit Lives, But Only On A T-Shirt

Dynamic Life ShirtDynamic Life Shirt

By Evan Ackerman

Just in time for Valentine’s Day (which is February 14th, guys, FEBRUARY 14th) are these 8-bit dynamic life shirts from ThinkGeek. Normally, the shirts light up with two and a half lives each, but when you and your significant other get within two meters of each other, you’ll start gaining lives as you get closer and closer until finally you reach 6 lives each and, I assume, total 8-bit bliss. After that, you’re allowed to make up to 5 gropes, lewd gestures, or thoughtless comments before you die.

The shirts are 100% cotton, and the hearts are actually a decal that can be removed for washing. They’ll run for about 3 hours on a battery pack that fits into a little pocket on the shirt. A characteristic of these shirts that’s ripe for abuse is that they’re not picky about which specific shirts are near them; they’ll light up in response to any other dynamic life shirts in the vicinity. Furthermore, you can buy a little transmitter that duplicates the radio in the shirts, and attach it to… Yeah, I’m not even gonna go there.

The shirts are $25 each, and the transmitter pack is $12.

[ ThinkGeek 8-Bit Dynamic Life Shirt ]

IOGear Wireless USB PC Card

IOGear Wireless USB CardBy Evan Ackerman

If you’re still looking for ways to use your PC Card slot, here’s a good one… a wireless USB adapter. Even though you can get wired USB wireless USB adapters (if that makes any sense), they’ll take up your USB bandwidth, which I guess could be a big deal. Since this is a PC Card, it uses a separate, um, series of tubes. There’s no pricing or availability information yet, but if you’ve got a bunch of wireless USB enabled peripherals lying around and no way to use them, IOGear is also selling wireless USB hubs and adapters you can buy now.

[ IOGear ] VIA [ Everything USB ]

HydroPak Consumer Fuel Cell Is Just Around The Corner

HydroPak Fuel Cell (Image courtesy Horizon Fuel Cell Technologies)By Andrew Liszewski

Fuel Cell technologies definitely hold a lot of promise, but it looks like the first devices to hit the market are probably going to only appeal to early adopters. The HydroPak from Horizon Fuel Cell Technologies can produce up to 25 watts of power with a combination of replaceable solid fuel cartridges and about a pint of water. That equals about 270 watt-hours of energy which should be enough to recharge a full size laptop about 5 times.

And while the HydroPak produces no exhaust and runs nearly silent, there are unfortunately a few downsides. For one, the half-pound replacement fuel cartridges cost about $20. According to Peter Glaskowski over at Crave, that means a single kilowatt hour from the HydroPak costs $74, where as the same kilowatt hour from a wall outlet costs 10 cents. The HydroPak’s $400 price tag isn’t that expensive, and the unit only weighs about 4 pounds, but for the same amount of money you can buy a considerably more powerful gas generator if you’re looking to use the device as a source of reliable backup power.

Finally, while the HydroPak produces no exhaust, the fuel cartridges use sodium-borohydride which is actually a mildly hazardous chemical. As the fuel is used, the byproducts of the reaction are returned to the sealed cartridge so it should be safe, but there’s always the risk of something happening, particularly in the hands of Joe-consumer. However, there always has to be a first generation of every product, and Horizon Fuel Cell Technologies hopes to have the HydroPak available to consumers sometime this year, which is an important first step.

[ HydroPak Portable Power Generator ] VIA [ Crave ]

Deskscape Reader Is Perfect For People With Too Much Desk Space

Deskscape Reader (Images courtesy GeekStuff4U)
By Andrew Liszewski

I don’t know about you, but when it comes to flash card readers I’m always trying to find the smallest one possible. Not only because it’s easier to travel with, but it also takes up less space on my desk. So the Deskscape Reader from Podera is the exact opposite of what I’m looking for.

It’s not huge by any means, but since it can only read memory sticks, MMC and SD cards it’s a lot bigger than it needs to be. Maybe if you like your desk to look like a modern art installation, the pastel color palette and weird organic looking bulge might fit in, but I’m grasping at positive things to say about this.

You can find it at GeekStuff4U in grey, green, orange, yellow and blue for $30.77.

[ Deskscape Reader ]