Full Speed

[ September 27, 2006 ]

More Efficient Computing

There are several hard technical problems surrounding power efficiency of computers, but we’ve found one that is actually not particularly challenging and could have a huge impact on the energy used by home computers and low-end servers: increasing power supply efficiency. All computers, including personal computers and servers, have power supplies to convert the alternating current (AC) from the outlet to the direct current (DC) needed by the machine. Typical power supplies waste 30-45% of their input power, and relatively simple modifications can bring this waste down to 10%. […] We believe that the development of a new open standard is necessary to achieve very high efficiencies at low costs, so we have begun discussions with Intel and other vendors that we hope might lead to significantly more efficient power supplies.
2:39 PM :: #

[ May 6, 2005 ]

Dyson DC07 Animal Sucks Better?

Yesterday marked the arrival of my shiny new Dyson DC07 Animal. I have been borrowing a vacuum for a while and recently decided that it was just time to get my own. After reading many praises of the Dysons, I was nearly certain it had to be the right choice. A bit of further research confirmed (enough for me anyway) what I had already suspected: the Dyson vacuum is a superior product when held in comparison with all others in its price range.

When I first arrived at home with the new box, I immediately felt as if I was carrying home an extremely heavy Apple product. This thing has almost the same carrying handle as my iBook’s box. Opening the box wasn’t quite as pleasing as opening an Apple box, but it was certainly simple. After breaking some adhesive strips along the top and sides of the lid, the box was completely open with little effort. The literature inside made me think “Apple” again. The guides to using different parts were extremely simple, multi-lingual, and had pictures with every step. I spent so much time initially reading the glossies that I almost forgot to take the vacuum out of its box.

As I skimmed through what seemed to be a quick-start guide (but later turned out to be the actual product manual), I quickly learned how to assemble the machine. I had the entire unit pieced together and working in under five minutes.

After a quick run around the homestead with the vacuum, I was very impressed. This is one amazing piece of machinery! There are so many little pieces that will snap off in the event that it becomes clogged. There’s a little tube near the bottom rear of the unit, another just above that on the top, and another on the top left near the gigantic hinge. And when you remove the dirt container, it seems like half of the machine comes with you.

Speaking of the dirt bin, there’s another treat. Emptying out the waste is an extremely well-engineered and simple process. All that you have to do is hold the container over a waste receptacle and pull the trigger. A door in the bottom drops out, and all of the dirt goes with it. The door is, of course, hinged, so it doesn’t actually fall out. Once you’ve released the waste, a quick nudge of the clean side of the door will close the container back up. This was especially nice for me since most bagless vacuums produce clouds of sneeze-inducing dust when they are emptied. But when I emptied the Dyson, there was no sneezing whatsoever.

On to the attachments —- six in all. Frankly, I’m not really sure that I will ever use all six, but they’re there if I do need them. There’s a carpet cleaning attachment, an attachment specially made for pet hair, a stair-cleaning attachment, and an attachment designed specially for cleaning under low chairs and such. The remaining two attachments are the old standards: a wedge-shaped tube and a small brush.

The number of ways to attach the attachments is impressive, too. First of all, there is the standard method. The handle of the vacuum is released from the unit by the press of a button. This handle then becomes a hose with an attachment point at the end. Remove the host from the handle, and a two foot tubular aluminum wand is exposed. At this point, you have two choices: attach an accessory to the hose or reattach the hose to the other end of the wand. The former option is fairly straightforward, but the latter is very impressive. The hose gives you about seventeen feet of working room away from the unit. The wand extends your reach so that you can easily get to ceilings and high fixtures without the need for a chair or ladder.

Overall, I really like my new vacuum. I cleaned with the borrowed vacuum the day before the Dyson arrived, and yet the Dyson still collected a large amount of dirt and lint on its first use. This machine really does suck better than its competition.

As recently as a few weeks ago, I thought that the Dyson vacuums were overpriced. I thought that they were the product of a brilliant marketing department. But while the marketing is certainly commendable, the product definitely lives up to the hype.

1:59 PM :: #

[ January 11, 2005 ]

New Apple Products

Apple unveiled many new products at the MacWorld SF Expo today:

Sadly, there were no PowerBook updates.

1:22 PM :: #

[ June 3, 2004 ]

Linksys Problems

Wi-Fi Net News made me aware of a security hole in the Linksys WRT54G wireless router yesterday. They say that the admin website can be accessed remotely even if remote admin is disabled.

Through my personal testing, I have not been able to access the admin page remotely except through the use of an ssh tunnel via a FreeBSD box behind the router. But since there may be something I’m missing here, I decided to go ahead and change my admin password anyway. And besides, default passwords are really stupid anyway. I should have changed it long ago.

An interesting piece of code came into my browser while I was changing my password. This is one that I haven’t seen mentioned elsewhere. It seems that Linksys is using unpublished proprietary javascript code that belongs to another company in their interface. Here’s the license that was included:

*   Copyright 2003, CyberTAN  Inc.  All Rights Reserved *

the contents of this file may not be disclosed to third parties,
copied or duplicated in any form without the prior written
permission of CyberTAN Inc.

This software should be used as a reference only, and it not
intended for production use!


Now we’ve all heard the stories about Linksys violating the GPL, but they’ve cleared that issue up and released the source. This has led to great projects such as EWRT. But this violation goes way beyond the GPL violation. Not only are they using code that isn’t theirs, but they include the license that says that they don’t have a right to use it. And if that were not bad enough, the license states that the code is not intended for production use.

Now I can’t wait to get EWRT installed on my WRT54G. I’d really rather not run Linksys’s shoddy software any longer.

Update: The remote admin vulnerability on the WRT54G only occurs when the firewall is disabled. By default, the firewall is enabled. This is not a big deal. If somebody disables the firewall on their router, they probably deserve to be exploited.

10:02 AM :: #

[ April 24, 2004 ]

HDTV TiVO Released

After months of waiting, TiVo has finally released its first HD DVR. The Hughes HR10-250 DirecTiVo features dual HD and SD tuners, a 250GB hard drive, and support for recording locally aired DTV broadcasts. It can record up to 30 hours of HD and up to 200 hours of standard definition programming. Much more information about this new device can be found on the TiVo Community forums along with some first impressions.

Update: Matt Haughey over at PVRblog is predicting that we’ll be seeing these for $400-500 on the street soon. Also, he is expecting a review unit, so I’m sure we will see an excellent review on his site before long.

1:49 PM :: #

[ April 6, 2004 ]

HDTV TiVo Coming Soon

I’ve written about the HDTV TiVo here in the past and there has been much speculation elsewhere. Until now, this holy grail of DVRs has been mere vapor. A few days ago, however, photos of a Hughes HD DirecTiVo prototype were posted to the TiVo Community Forum. Additionally, I found that there is at least one reseller taking preorders. [Via PVRblog]

3:58 AM :: #

[ March 11, 2004 ]

Record Movies on the Treo 600

MovieRec records video on the Treo 600 at a claimed 30fps. Video is 160x120x16bit. This is one of the few features the makers of the Treo forgot. The next release will be the one to watch, as it will add the ability to save the videos to an SD card. [via GearBits]

Update: Version 1.03 now supports saving to an SD card.

1:23 AM :: #

[ February 11, 2004 ]

8GB Compact Flash

Simpletech has announced that they’ll soon be bringing an 8GB compact flash card to market. With digital camera resolution increasing with every new product generation, this will be nice to have around. For taking raw images at 8mp+, this begins to seem more like a necessity. [via digitalslr.org]

2:19 PM :: #

[ January 27, 2004 ]

Easy TiVo Upgrades

PVRblog just linked to a story about TiVo upgrades for dummies. The summary: It seems that the folks at WeaKnees have got the TiVo market figured out.

Whether you want to upgrade your existing TiVo to as much as 344 hours of capacity or you want to buy a new TiVo that’s already upgraded, they have the solution for you. They have an excellent warranty and are a very customer-oriented company.

And for all of you High Definition freaks out there, be sure to check out their HD TiVo page. The HD hardware isn’t expected until April, but you’ll want to be sure to get on the list.

The only thing missing from these guys is the cache card, but WeaKnees seems to be the most complete TiVo upgrade source out there.

11:26 AM :: #

[ January 6, 2004 ]

iPod Mini

Apple introduced the iPod Mini today. It looks like everybody hates this one so far.

The primary gripe is that the 4GB device is only $50 less than the smallest iPod, which has nearly four times the capacity. That just doesn’t quite add up for me. Sure, 4GB is probably plenty of space for most of my listening needs, but I just don’t see a ton of people paying this price when they can have the real iPod for just $50 more.

On the positive side, though, you do still get that same excellent iPod interface, a choice of color, and a smaller form factor. Some have mentioned that they prefer the button configuration on the new device.

For an MP3 player that was expected to fall below the $150 price mark, the iPod Mini is rather disappointing. But for the budget-minded out there who can’t afford that extra $50, there is now another option available.

9:45 PM :: #

[ December 1, 2003 ]

TiVo CacheCard

I must confess: I don’t have a TiVo. But I’ve been wanting one for a while, but several complaints with the technology have kept me away. Most of those have been resolved by third-party upgrades, such as larger hard drives. However, I believe that my final complaint, the slow access to the database, has finally been resolved properly.

From what I’ve grasped from the forums, when you have a large database of recordings, it takes quite a while to access this database at times, especially when you are trying to view one of those recordings at the same time. We’re dealing with IDE drives after all. The solution to this problem for many has been to solder on additional RAM. With this additional memory, the database is cached, and access becomes much faster. I’ve never quite liked that idea, though, because it seems like the fastest way to either kill your TiVo our just completely void your warranty.

The TiVo CacheCard from 9th Tee makes this fix much simpler. This card is plugged into the internal expansion slot on the TiVo. The card provides one ethernet interface and one DIMM slot. The user provides, say, a 512MB DIMM, and the TiVo CacheCard drivers go to work caching the database in that memory.

The ethernet is there because that’s what people normally use the expansion slot for. This upgrade wouldn’t be practical to most without also including that. And I see this as an added feature as well, since this would be combining two upgrade steps into one.

Anyhow, you can preorder these babies right now. They are said to be shipping mid-December. [via PVRblog.]

12:41 PM :: #

[ November 29, 2003 ]


There’s an HDTV TiVo on the horizon. What I’m wondering here is whether TiVo will ever figure out that these things need to ship with bigger drives. In my opinion, the current boxes for standard TV don’t have large enough drives. The mass proliferation of upgrades on the net is proof that others feel the same. If this continues to the HDTV versions, TiVo will have some serious problems. [via PVRblog]

1:10 PM :: #

[ November 10, 2003 ]

Pioneer TiVo DVD Recorder Reviewed

Mark Evanier bought a new Pioneer TiVo DVD Recorder and shared his experiences in a brief review. [via PVRblog]

2:38 PM :: #

[ October 28, 2003 ]

TiVo DVD Recorders

PVRblog noted a couple of new Pioneer DVD Recorders that have TiVo functionality built in. The pricing needs work, but they’ll come down eventually. Check them out at Pioneer’s site.

2:32 PM :: #

[ October 9, 2003 ]

Ultimate Video Machine

PVRblog mentioned a sweet new piece of hardware today, the KiSS DivX Player. Not only will this play everything under the sun on your CDs or DVDs (“Full DVD/MPEG-4/DivX®/XviD/CD/MP3/Ogg Vorbis/CD-RW/DVD+-RW compatibility”), but it’s got an ethernet port for streaming all that content in from your PC as well. And as if that weren’t enough, it’s got an 80GB hard drive for recording TV shows, too. This will make a very nice addition to my home.

5:17 PM :: #

[ October 1, 2003 ]

Wireless VPN Appliance from Linksys

Linksys has shipped a wireless router that has VPN functionality built in. Only L2TP over IPSec is supported, but this looks like a sweet deal for anyone needing a semi-permanent VPN connection from the home to the office.

5:28 PM :: #

[ September 23, 2003 ]

Athlon 64 is Finally Here

The announcement came as no surprise today. We’ve been anticipating this one for many months now. The Athlon 64 processor family, including the beefy 64FX, is finally here, along with a beta release of 64-bit Windows. And news coverage abounds.

6:12 PM :: #

ThinkPad X31

Having been a ThinkPad user for about two years now, I’ve recently been eyeing the newest ultraportable ThinkPad, the X31. Finally, thanks to Gizmodo, I got to read a review of the laptop today. The review gave it five stars. I guess I know what my next upgrade will be.

6:00 PM :: #

[ August 27, 2003 ]


With the advent of cheaper, purer diamonds, the semiconductor industry is on the heels of a revolution. And NTT is leading the way. Sure, we’re still years away from an Athlon Diamond XP, but this is the first step on that long path.

2:59 AM :: #

[ August 26, 2003 ]

4GB Microdrive Confirmed!

It’s been confirmed! As mentioned yesterday, Hitachi is breaking out the big guns this year. Now it’s official! The new giant Microdrives will be out just in time for the holidays. Hopefully I’ll be shooting 8 or more megapixels by then.

10:59 PM :: #

[ August 25, 2003 ]

More on the F-828

It looks like I’m not the only one who is excited about Sony’s new camera. Now when can I test-drive one?

5:10 PM :: #

Serious Storage for Digital Cameras

Hitachi’s 4GB Microdrive is coming soon! Priced far below the equivalent flash-based CF card, this is sure to spark some good CF competition.

3:23 PM :: #

[ August 18, 2003 ]

Cybershot 8 MegaPixel Marvel

Sony recently announced their new flagship digital camera, the DSC-F828. DPReview published a preview of a pre-production model on the same day. This looks like a promising camera for the “prosumer” market. It certainly bridges the gap between the current pro and consumer models. It’s the first Sony camera that I know of to offer a compact flash slot. The new black, slightly thicker casing seems to be a bonus as well—while it will add a bit of weight, it will certainly take away the fragile feeling that the prior models gave. I can’t wait to try out this model.

3:44 PM :: #

[ July 27, 2003 ]

Lindows WebStation

Add in a wireless card and a decent LCD monitor, and the Lindows WebStation will make a very nice computer for browsing in places where browsing is all that you need.

And with built-in support for connecting to an SMB server, it instantly has access to my home FreeBSD server running Samba. For anyone who has a wireless network and an SMB server at home, this is a very cheap way to add another PC to the family.

I particularly like the version offered by iDOT.computers. Based on the VIA C3 processor, it’s likely to be quieter, cooler, and more energy-efficient. Plus, it’s case looks much less like the “beige box” PC — much more sleek.

5:27 PM :: #

[ July 25, 2003 ]

Notebook or Handheld PC?

So I was reading PC Magazine a few days ago (free subscribtion—I’d never pay for that one), and I stubmled across an ad for the most recent addition to the NEC MobilePro series of Handheld PCs. This one is listed at $899. The form factor of this PDA on steroids is certainly impressive. And while I like the wide-format display, 640x240 isn’t much real estate, especially when I’m stuggling to see a passive matrix screen.

So why would anybody want to buy this when you can get a Lindows Mobile PC for only $799? This thing has a 1024x768 TFT display. That’s much more usable to me.

5:30 PM :: #

[ July 23, 2003 ]

Need a Low-Power Server?

I’ve been very interested in low-power computing for quite some time now. All of my computers, whether servers, desktops, or laptops, are power-hungry heat monsters. My desktop has about eight fans in it. The house server has seven fans and five drives that spin non-stop. My development server, which runs FreeBSD, only has five fans in it, but it manages to be the loudest box in the house. My Thinkpad often gets so hot that it becomes very uncomfortable to use it as a laptop. I’m often forced to place it on the floor for a while to let it cool down, but it’s definitely silent in comparison with the others. With those four boxes all in the same room, it’s very hot and very loud. (And that’s just half of the computers in the house!)

Enter Iron Systems. They have a sweet little 1U server that’s powered by a 933 MHz VIA C3. While many C3 boxes are completely fanless, that’s not the case with the server. In fact, I’ve heard rumor that they are even overcooled. While this won’t solve my noise problems, it’s certainly going to lower my energy bill each month. And it certainly won’t generate as much heat as the incumbent Athlons.

So I’m inclined to ask: For my meager processing needs at the house, why would I want to keep the Athlons around? (Except for the desktop, of course. ;-)

12:11 AM :: #

[ July 21, 2003 ]

Sony’s New Ultralight

Sony’s latest entry in the ultralight subnotebook category is being called a 12” Powerbook Killer.

I’m not a big fan of Sony hardware. I once purchased one of their tiny notebooks rom CompUSA and had to take it back because the touchpad just didn’t work at all. In all, they gave me four different notebooks before I just gave up and decided that I wanted my money back.

Then I bought a Sony CLIE. The NR-70. This was one of their first to include and MP3 player in a clamshell form factor. But the problem: the thing didn’t recognize my memory sticks. I had about 5 different sticks which worked quite well in my Sony camera, voice recorder, and TV. These sticks also worked just fine on my Mac and PCs via USB and PCMCIA adapters. But the CLIE said that the stick was improperly formatted. I even tried formatting the stick on the CLIE, but that didn’t even help. I eventually unloaded the PDA on eBay.

Sony definitely knows how to pack the features into a small device. They know what the market wants. They know how to make it look good. But they just don’t hold up. Whenever I finally get around to buying a tiny notebook for myself, I think I’ll stick to the good old IBM Thinkpad line. I’m using a very heavy Thinkpad right now, and it’s withstood some horrific falls. I don’t think any Sony notebook owner can say the same.

7:01 PM :: #

[ July 20, 2003 ]

Cheap IBM PPC Servers Coming

eWEEK has an article that talks about IBM’s plans for some “ultra-low-end” servers based on the PowerPC 970. It looks like we can expect to start seeing these sometime next year. And the best part is that they’re planning to put out a 4U, 4-way server at around $3500. These servers will run either Linux or AIX. I’ve been drooling over their POWER4-based servers for quite some time now, but they are WAY out of my price range. These new offerings make me really happy.

2:50 AM :: #

Sony CLIE UX50

Sony finally announced their hot new PDA that I mentioned a few days ago.

Slashdot gave a a bit of coverage yesterday. I found several interesting viewpoints there.

I’m still waiting on these guys to deliver one that adds in GSM/GPRS support, too. My previous experience with Sony CLIEs has been very bad, though, so even when they get the features that I need, I’m going to have to make sure I purchase from a store that has a very customer-friendly return policy.

1:58 AM :: #

[ July 17, 2003 ]

The Ultimate PDA?

Sony is supposed to announce a new PDA tomorrow. Brighthand seems to have an early scoop on it (via Ars Technica). WiFi, Bluetooth, QWERTY keyboard, .3 megapixel camera. Also, the ARM-based processor is made by Sony and is supposedly tweaked for maximum battery life. Very sweet. For me, there are only two things missing: a GSM phone and a CF slot. Perhaps the followup model will get those added in.

Update: Gizmodo and infoSync World seem to have discovered this, too.

11:53 PM :: #
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