AlphaGrip keyboard

After some repeated wrist pain, I figured I had to attempt a change of habits. The most likely culprit seemed to me my constant yet ergonomically unconsidered keyboard use. The first thing to change is sideways typing at irregular heights, such as in bed. Anyone who knows me will realize two things; I won’t manage to just stop, and this is another opportunity for my gadget mania to strike.

So I set about googling for ergonomic keyboards. I found a few options, not all of which are traditional.

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Some more Android bits

A few apps were omitted from my previous post about Android, mostly because I considered them not that helpful for the audience at large. However, I don’t really have a large audience, nor a clue what they’d like to see – so that’s a pretty poor reason.¬†And of course a few were added since, to cover unanticipated whims. So, here are a few more.

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Useful Android addons

It had to happen. Given my gadget mania, physical wear, and Nokia’s new direction (straight down the drain), the replacement for my E71 has at last been selected, and it’s an Android phone.

I still required a physical keyboard, GPS, extensibility and tethering. On the wishlist were high resolution screen, good battery, openness and good platform support (like the scripting support for the E71 did not get). So I ended up with a HTC Desire Z, seemingly also known as Vision or G2.

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Parametric searches

If you’ve ever browsed the web page of a consumer equipment manufacturer, you’ve probably run into the frustrating experience of trying to figure out what makes one model different from another. I tend to go straight for the product specification pages, but sometimes it’s not enough – they may be missing, incomplete (hello, Fujifilm), incorrect or even intentionally misleading (hello, Samsung), or just plain unreadable. And even when the pertinent data is there, we often find one brand won’t measure using units used by another brand. This is where comparative reviews really shine – but inevitably, group tests don’t cover the precise items you’re considering. One thing that can sometimes help is parametric searches.

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PocketBook firmware update – 20110312

Today, I took the plunge to update the firmware in my ebook reader. I wish the version number made sense, but they already reused the 2.0.4 number, and supposedly the new firmware update function offers a 2.0.6 that’s really 2.0.5, so there you have it – this release is D903.2.0.5 20110312_174324. And for some reason, the update archive is named sw_20110312_903_LIBRI_2.0.5_libri_user. After reformatting the internal storage memory I found out where Libri came from – this firmware has a link to libri.de instead of bookland.net for a main screen widget.

Anyway, on to the impressions. Continue reading

Hand powered electrical generators

When I was younger, the dynamo flashlight was a fairly common product. Usually it would consist of an electromagnetic generator, a lightbulb, a flywheel for energy storage and a lever with some sort of clutching mechanism. One would squeeze the lever into the body of the device to add power, then allow it to extend again. This could easily be operated with one hand, even wearing mittens, as one simply closes and opens the gripping hand.

Nowadays, I’d be vaguely annoyed at any generator that didn’t provide an outlet. I’ve been on the lookout for a handheld generator, and while lots are available, most are simply hand cranked. Those require much finer manipulations, and tend to end up with obvious inefficiency as our arms just aren’t unlimited rotary joints. Besides that, frequently the device itself it downright fragile, which doesn’t mesh well with the concept of applying force to get it to work at all. I’d like something different. Continue reading

More parallel computing chips

Somewhat over a year ago I jotted down some notes on parallel microcontrollers. I hadn’t heard or done much since, but a few things have happened. I ended the note with a plea for more options, and today it was finally – albeit indirectly – answered. Slashdot picked up some PR from Intel regarding higly multi-core processors, and a comment regarding other brands mentioned two I had not yet heard of.

GreenArrays has started offering some of their larger chips for sale. They’re another product I suspect will be relegated to niche status and forgotten, which is really a pity as they have some very good ideas. The problems aren’t very complex, and not necessarily crippling. First, the whole design is based on the creator’s favourite language, Forth. It is a 1970’s language, and hasn’t changed much since. As such, the grand interactive development system is.. well.. like an 80s microcomputer. It simply doesn’t scale well, and that’s a problem when scaling is what it’s all about – they offer 144-core chips! The other drawback is the lack of communications routing, as all those cores must programmatically shuffle data between them (and yes, the entire layout has to be done manually for now). Finally, don’t expect a hobbyist foothold when only large BGA models are available, nor much of an industrial one while you’re the only source and porting costs would be immense. Where the design shines is in power efficiency, and it’s fairly impressive when it comes to speed and code density, but it just doesn’t seem enough.

Picochip multi-core DSPs fall in the hybrid chip category. They feature a reconfigurable section, but instead of the bit-level FPGA design they have a bunch of DSPs, while ARM cores handle the general purpose computing.

The Icera chips, on the other hand, I found no actual details about. It reminds me of Zii – there’s some DSP going on, but they won’t tell what.

The Zii Plaszma is actually being sold, with plenty of marketspeak claiming it’s revolutionary, but they seem more focused on making up analogies and buzzwords rather than admitting anything about the architecture or specifications. In fact, they’re so busy making these up that they’re outright lying about what other things do. Their marketing has convinced me not to trust them.