Saturday, July 26, 2008

HP Mini HP-2133 for the mobile audio reporter

I am currently very interested in what's happening in the low-cost, light mini-laptop market. If you're reporting from the field, every gram counts against you. This useful review by Shawn Powers of the Linux Journal persuaded me to wait. The HP-2133 has now arrived in Europe priced in Holland at €465,- ex VAT including Vista Business (other configurations available, including Linux). Compared to the Eee-PC, I think HP has come up with a better built device, as well as a larger screen.

The laptop comes with a standard battery which works for around 2.25 hours. There's an extended battery as an optional extra.

The 92% key-pad means the keypad is only slightly smaller than a full-size keyboard. This is a GREAT keyboard if you write a lot. The on-board speakers are loud - useful if you're doing some sound editing and don't want to use headphones. Skype audio seems to work fine. The screen has full resolution too - better than the Eee-PC.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The Dance Powered Phone, Radio & Battery Charger

The UK branch of the French mobile phone company Orange has announced the launch of a mobile phone charger prototype that is powered by dance energy! Working with renewable energy specialists, GotWind, who were also responsible for last year’s Orange Wind Charge and this year’s Orange ReCharge Pod, Orange also commissioned research into a kinetic energy portable phone charger that would harness the energy created by festival revellers dancing to their favourite bands to ensure a clean and renewable energy source.

Whilst the research of the Orange and GotWind team is still in its infancy and continues to be developed, Orange has already built fully functioning prototype models of the Dance Charge that were tested at this year’s Glastonbury Festival, taking place at Worthy Farm in Pilton, Somerset last week.

The Dance Charge prototype weighs in at only 180 grams. It is approximately the same size as a pack of cards and the same weight as a mobile phone. The Dance Charge unit comes encased in an elasticated, black, neoprene strap with Velcro attachments which is attached over the wearer’s bicep in a similar fashion to a runner’s arm-mounted mp3 player.

As the user moves their arms along to the music – a specially designed system of weights and magnets, similar to that found in kinetic energy watches, creates an electrical current which provides a top-up of charge to a storage battery. So whilst festival goers are out dancing to their favourite bands, the charger stores dance generated power in the reservoir battery, ready for when they return to their tent each night to recharge their phone.

Ben Jandrell from Shropshire, UK founded Gotwind in 2006 with the purpose of sharing his 25 years experience in the design and making of small scale renewable energy projects, focusing in particularly on wind and solar power.

Ben launched his website initially as a hobby to share his passion with the world, as renewable energy has become more and more prevalent, Gotwind and its unique DIY approach has received a lot of interest worldwide.

Personally I see an application in Africa, not only for dancers but simply for people who walk a lot as part of their trade and have a need to be connected - either through a mobile phone or the FM radio inside around 25% of all mobile phones sold in that region of the world. No word on the cost.

All this reminds me that in 2001 the inventor of the wind-up radio, Trevor Baylis completed a 100 mile walk across the Namibian Desert demonstrating some electric Shoes and raising money for the Mines Advisory Group. The "electric shoes" used piezoelectric contacts in the heels to charge a small battery that can be used to operate a radio transceiver or cellular telephone. The shoes were invented by Dr Jim Gilbert, a lecturer in engineering at Hull University, who was asked to develop an idea by Trevor Baylis, But I don't think the Electric Shoe Company managed to make the idea into a commercial product.