April 24th, 2010

Odd Lots

  • From the Words-I-Didn't-Know-Until-Yesterday Department: Fixie, a fixed-gear bicycle; i.e., a bike in which the pedals always move with the rear wheel and coasting is impossible. Fixies are currently the rage among hipsters in stylish cities. It sounds deranged to me, but I lack the hipster gene and value my knees, so what do I know?
  • From Aki Peltonen comes a link to probably the best volcano blog I've ever seen. Great photos, interesting analysis, and reasonably courteous comments. (Boy, you don't see that everywhere!)
  • While we're talking volcanoes, how are the sunsets in the UK? Denmark? Any personal reports from readers here?
  • Many have sent me a link to the Panoramic Wi-Fi Camera, a fascinating gadget that consists of 20 cantennas arranged in a vertical line on a frame that spins 360 degrees horizontally. Spin the device, and a netbook builds a panoramic image of the 2.4 GHz field in the immediate vicinity. Watch the videos. Fascinating on its own merits, and pay attention to what happens when somebody throws a cup of coffee into a nearby microwave oven: The oven blinds the camera to everything else. For all the tooth-gnashing we hear over cellphone radiation, microwave oven RF leakage never seems to get a whisper.
  • This should surprise no one: Google's Street View carcams have also been wardriving. There's less to this than meets the eye (there was a project, now defunct, doing this in 2002) but it's yet another reason I don't power-up my Wi-Fi access point unless I need it for some reason. (My house has Cat5E in the walls, and I use PowerLine bricks for high-speed Net access in odd corners.)
  • Dave Schmarder N2DS has given his homebrew radio site a major upgrade and its own domain, so even if you saw it a few years ago, do take another look. Gorgeous work.
  • We blew through the range of SDHC Flash memory cards in record time: 32 GB cards are now in the supportable $60-$80 range...and 32GB is as big as they get. We did this in four years. Admittedly, SDHC was a cheap'n'easy hack, but hell, what kind of damfool memory standard only increases capacity by 16X? (Even SDXC, which takes us to 2 TB, should have gone much farther.) My guess: Standards authors don't want to be wrong about future advances in hardware, and certainly don't want to be a drag on future innovations by being too explicit about how hardware is supposed to work ten or twelve years on. I can see both sides. That doesn't make it any less annoying.
  • From Michael Covington comes a pointer to a 1952 riff on beer and ham radio, and a glimpse of what cash-poor radio guys dreamed of the year I was born. I've never met anybody who ever had such a rack (the radios, the radios!) but beer was and remains very big in radio shacks to this day. K1NSS is the cartoonist behind the Dash books, about a dog who does ham radio. (I found him last year while researching names for our current puppy...)