How Does the Power Grid Work?

February 8, 2014

Until the power grid beefs up infrastructure in the midwest where nobody lives, the wind and solar power generated there will be inaccessible for most Americans.


Facebook, the next Myspace

April 21, 2009

It’s official, facebook is a dead property. I recently got my facebook account disabled. It turns out I’m in good company (Guy Kawasaki and others). Not that I’m bitter that my account got disabled, but it is not a good sign of things to come. When your mom is on facebook, you know that it is no longer cool. Twitter is what’s cool now. It has shot up in popularity without a good revenue model. Everyone used to be on Myspace and that was the problem, because of all the teeny boppers. Have you tried to read any comments on youtube?

False positives hurt the user experience. Once you ruin that experience the illusion is gone. RIP facebook.

Technology Trends: Augemented Reality

March 14, 2009

Here’s a quick post.

Augmented reality is mainstream and people are finding creative uses for it.

The ingredients for augment reality are a sensor, like a camera, and a way of displaying information such as a projector. I foresee an increase in demand for compact camera/projector systems.

Craigslist Notifiers, Lessening Valuable Findings

August 13, 2008

I remember the days of trying to win something on Ebay (EBAY) and waiting until the last few seconds before the item ended in attempt to “snipe” the auction.  As time evolved, various software tools (none of which I have ever used) allowed you to time the auction in order to get the final bid which ensures that you were the winner and that no one else would be able to place a bid after you.   There are still many good deals on Ebay but I feel that the amount of true deals on Ebay are waning due to the continuous increase in fees (which causes sellers to post less items for auction), increase in amount of Ebayers (odds are that the auction you’re tracking is being tracked by many others), and increase in buy it now auctions.

Now we move onto Craigslist which is the most successful online classified website.  Ebay even has a 28% ownership stake in Craigslist.  Yesterday, I posted a listing in the SF Bay Area Craiglist section for a free 14″ CRT Compaq monitor with accompanying keyboard.  Even though these items were easily 5 years old and barely worth the gas to come pick up, I got a reply from a guy named Manny that said he could put the equipment to use and would be willing to pick up ASAP.   After exchanging contact information via e-mail with Manny, he came within 3 hours to pickup the equipment.

After talking to him for a bit, he claimed that with exorbitant gas prices that exist, people need to “reinvent themselves and figure out new ways to get by in life.”  And he is doing just that.  Turns out, after more questions from my part, that he uses a Craigslist software notifier to e-mail him when searches with certain keywords pop up on Craigslist like “free keyboard, monitor, dvd player, television, or cell phone.”  He then e-mails prospective people offering free electronics to see when and where he can pick things up.  Manny claims that he is a self employed individual and is licensed in California to recycle electronics and gets .25/pound for recycled electronics.   On top of that, he has another business set up to sell the better condition electronics that are too good to just be recycled.  I find it quite a tedious job and can’t imagine how difficult it has to be to drive around and haul hundreds of pounds of electronics in the back of your van every day.  A 100 pound TV to be recycled, according to his payout, will only yield $25, and then you have to deduct the amount of gas to transport everything around and your time to pickup these items.

Some of the Craigslist notifiers I found quickly through doing a fast Google/CNET search were Craiglist Notifier 1.1.2 and Ad Notifier Professional.   Therefore if you’re someone trying to snipe some free items off Craigslist, just be aware that there are people who making a living off their free local Craigslist section and it may be hard to come by valuable free stuff (I can imagine free furniture won’t go as quickly due to not being able to get much secondary market value for them).  Craigslist is a great free tool to acquire used items, find subletters and roommates, and even locate a new job, but just be aware that people are using this free tool to make a living or some side cash so search accordingly and hopefully you’ll find a good deal even with these Craigslist posting notifiers floating around out there.

Review: Garmin Nuvi 200W Portable GPS

June 8, 2008

Just about a month ago, I purchased a Garmin Nuvi 200W 4.3″ widescreen portable GPS system. This GPS system doesn’t have the bells and whistles that a lot of the other Garmin units have, but for basic GPS functionality this unit is a great starter for anybody out there. Some features that this unit doesn’t include: Canada/Mexico maps, bluetooth capability, FM transmitter, mp3 player, and text-to-speech audio. On the other hand, it does come with a nice 4.3″ widescreen and the overall GPS functionality (the basic foundation you need to look for when deciding between a Tom Tom (TOM2.AS), Garmin (GRMN), or Magellan unit) is excellent.

One Minor Flaw

I live in an area that contains many apartment buildings, and when I leave my parking garage, it takes up to 5 minutes for the satellite to acquire. Sometimes I will even drive onto Interstate 5 and it still takes time to acquire signal. This can be troublesome if you don’t know how to start your trip and waiting 5 minutes before being directed in the correct direction can cause problems. The funniest thing is that at times I don’t have signal when I leave my apartment, but when I arrive back from a trip where I’m using the Nuvi 200W, I will have satellite signal around my apartment area.

What Features I Would Pay More For

If I had to purchase another Garmin unit, I would make sure to get the text-to-speech functionality so the portable GPS unit would announce the name of the street to turn on or an exit to turn off from a highway. This is a big upgrade compared to “take a left in .3 miles” or “exit right.” Having the text-to-speech capability allows the driver to keep their focus on the road and not keep shifting their eyes between the streets and the GPS system. At the price I paid for my refurbished unit, it was worth getting the 200W but text-to-speech functionality would be something I would like included in my next GPS unit.

Geocache Add On

By going to the Garmin site, you can load geocaches onto your GPS unit, and you can use your Garmin unit to find objects that other people have hidden in specific locations. All you simply have to do is create a free Garmin account, type in the location you want to look for geocaches, and then just choose what geocaches you want to load into your GPS unit via USB.

Overall Satisfaction: A
Features: B
Signal Quality: A-
Affordability: A

Technology in Texas

May 21, 2008

While on my week long trip in Texas, I noticed a few examples of advances in technology. Just 8 years ago, I barely knew anybody who had a cell phone; now your mother, little sister, and nephew have cell phones. Ten years from now, kids will be unaware that CD players, corded telephones, and pagers even existed. Who knows what new innovations will be coming our way; but you never know. Switchgrass may very well be the primary source for producing ethanol instead of corn but only time will tell. The technological advancements I saw are as follows:

  1. Sensors in the frozen food aisle at Wal Mart
    Now the normal overhead lights are always on while the store is in operation, but the lights inside where the frozen food sits only lights up as you walk through the given aisle. Wireless sensors placed throughout the entire aisle detect when people are present and preserve energy during the non-busy hours of the day. Such a simple idea saves a lot of energy and saves Wal Mart a bunch of money over the long run.

  2. Cell phone/Ipod chraging station at the Houston Hobby Airport
    As I exiting out of one of the terminals at Houston Hobby, I noticed The Charge Cart kiosk near the restrooms that acted as a standalone charger for cell phones and Ipods. For only $3, you could get a 30-minute charge to charge your devices that you forgot to bring a charger for. Instead of desperately trying to find that Ipod charger in a place you are unfamiliar with, just pay $3 by credit card for a 50% “quick charge.” Various cell phone selections included Motorola, Kyocera, Samsung, Iphone, LG, Treo, Blackberry, and Nextel. This is good for convenience and for those forgetful people who go to the airport without everything they should be taking with them while traveling.

  3. I noticed two solar panels on the Copano Bay Fishing Pier as I was fishing for hardhead catfish, croakers, and pin fish. While two panels are not going to generate enough energy to power the lights for the pier at night, these panels were geared for research for a local Texas university. Solar has been generating a lot of interest as of late, especially with the increase cell efficiency in the panels, government subsidies, and oil at all an time high.

Kudos to Texas!!!

Time to Buy a Portable GPS System

May 14, 2008

By now, you have probably driven with someone who owns a portable GPS unit and odds are they own a model from Garmin (GRMN), Magellan, or Tom Tom (TOM2.AS). The prices of these GPS units have gotten so affordable that average families can now purchase one without breaking the bank. I even broke down recently and bought a Garmin Nuvi 200. While you can get a brand new one for $203 on Amazon, I opted with a refurbished version for $155 on Ebay. These units have gotten so affordable that it doesn’t make sense to not have one. You can get a basic system without all the bells and whistles for less than $225. Forget the bluetooth options, mp3 playing capability, and maps of Mexico/Canada/other parts of the world. GPS functionality should be your primary concern when shopping around for a GPS system.

What Should You Be Looking For In a GPS System?

On top of basic GPS functionality, the only two options I considered were a widescreen 4.3″ GPS unit and text-to-speech functionality.

  1. Widescreen GPS Units
    You can see a good comparison of the Garmin Nuvi systems on the GPSTracklog site. The Nuvi 200W is the most budget affordable 4.3″ widescreen GPS system by Garmin. The next most affordable 4.3″ model is the 250W which is the same as the 200W but includes maps of Canada (which most of us will never utilize). While driving, you don’t want things to be cluttered in a smaller screen. Giving a little more room to navigate will be worthwhile so you don’t focus all your attention on pushing different options on your Nuvi instead of watching the road.
  2. Text-to-Speech Capability
    This function enables the GPS system to pronounce the names of the streets as you’re driving. It will say “right on Cassanova St.” or “left on 44th St.” whereas the non text-to-speech systems will just say “left in .5 miles” or “right in .3 miles.” While the text-to-speech functionality is the next most important function in a GPS system after the widescreen option, it should not be a requirement when buying a unit. It would come in handy as you can concentrate more on driving, but you have to discern whether the price difference is worth adding this function. The Nuvi 260 and Nuvi 260W are both the next Nuvi systems that offer text-to-speech capabilities while the latter being the one that also has a 4.3″ screen. Based on the Amazon price, you’re paying an extra $70 for the additional feature of text-to-speech.

What Are the Primary Benefits of a portable GPS System?

  1. Save Gas!!!
    Okay so what it really does is give you accurate directions so that you don’t spend time backtracking and getting lost which requires more miles to drive. Extra miles being driven equates to more gas used, and more gas used equates to wasting your money.
  2. Convenience
    Sure you can just type in the address through Google Maps beforehand and print out the directions before departing on your journey. Although if you don’t take the exact route you printed out, you may not be able to easily navigate to your destination. With a portable GPS unit, it will recalculate your route based on your final destination and give updated step by step directions.
  3. Can’t Be Truly Substituted With Cell Phone GPS
    Everyday, GPS on cell phones are becoming more common but at least for now, they don’t suffice as a substitute for these portable GPS systems due to the size of the cell phone screen. It is much too difficult to navigate on your cell phone screen while attempting to drive.

Even though I have yet to try out my Garmin Nuvi 200W, my friends have said very positive things about their Magellan or Garmin units. In general, it’s hard to go wrong with either one of the big three GPS companies. I don’t see them getting a whole lot cheaper (the Garmin Nuvi 350 has dropped from a retail price of $970 in February of 2006 to a current price of $235), and people will get many benefits of owning one.