Posted tagged ‘gadgets’

Ferrofluid “Morphing Sculptures”

March 2, 2008

Ferrofluid is cool stuff. Here’s a video of two electromagnetic metal cones in a pool of ferrofluid. Mmmm…. spiky….

Apple’s iPhone: Where are the standard smartphone features?

February 26, 2008

I bought an iPhone the day after they were introduced. I like it a lot. I used to carry a Palm, a mobile phone and and iPod. Now I have the iPhone, and I bring my 60G iPod when I drive.

One thing has been troubling me for a while. When will the iPhone’s software be upgraded to include de rigeur smartphone features like recording movies or voice memos? Voice dial seems like a natural feature for an OS X-based phone, when OS X has voice recognition built in. The web experience is better than any other current phone, but it really isn’t “the whole web” without a Flash plugin.

What about the note pad? I’ve been syncing notes on my Palm for over a decade. Instead I have to use a draft email in an IMAP account as a note pad. Another feature I relied on in my Motorola V180 was “wait during dialing,” where the phone would dial up to a point and wait for me to hit a button to continue. That feature was good for making any call that included an extension number or PIN, and it was great when calling SmartRoutes (a free traffic reporting system with many prompts, and driving-challenged inputs like “*4951” to get information on the northern half of Route 495).

Steve Jobs said there’d be more features to come when he introduced the iPhone. Instead, the software updates have been largely focussed on bug fixes and securing the phone from unlocking. Where are the “new” features that are standard on lesser phones? We’re waiting.

UPDATED: Nice to have: Celestron’s Sky Scout handheld star finder & “personal planetarium”

September 4, 2006

Celestron's Sky Scout As my friends can attest, for years I have wanted to design and market a consumer device that would combine a laptop, astronomy software, and virtual reality glasses you can see through (like a heads-up display) with which to teach astronomy. Imagine, for instance, looking up, pressing a button, and having the outlines of all the constellations superimposed on your view of the sky? Of course, hobbyists like myself would also have a complete blast.

Anyway, Celestron is releasing something like that in April 2006, called the SkyScout, for only $399.

UPDATE 8/24/06: Sky & Telescope magazine’s mini review is here.

UPDATE 8/30/06: Another review, this time from the Associated Press, is here. Also, I’ve learned another very cool use for the SkyScout?: it can find bright objects like Venus or Jupiter during daylight hours! Few people have seen these during the day, though they are frequently visible if you know exactly where to look, especially through binoculars. Sadly, eyes are not good at picking up a tiny speck of light against a vast field of blue. I think if I had one, I’d probably attach my StarFinder™ Green Laser Pointer to it, so people with me could follow what I’m seeing.

UPDATE 9/4/05: The AP SkyScout review is now on the web. Looks like this is going to be a popular device!

I’ve read the online information, and the three main features seem to be:

  • Look through Sky Scout and point at something in the sky, and it will tell you what you’re looking at.
  • Ask Sky Scout to locate something for you, look through it, and arrows in the viewfinder will guide you to it.
  • An LCD readout and audio output will provide more information on the sky, and even take you on guided tours.

All of which is very slick for the price. I suspect they’ll sell a bunch of them. I’d like one myself.