Paper plates and cheap Kindles

I’m a bit bummed that the tech world is predicting a slow death of the inexpensive e-reader. Barnes & Noble is giving away Nook Simple Touches for free if you buy a higher end Nook HD+, and dedicated e-reader sales are expected to drop in 2013.

Like, seriously? I was hoping that these things would become so ubiquitous we’d start seeing them in the grocery store checkout isles next to the $5 calculators.

Yes the iPad, Kindle Fire, and Galaxy tablets are great tools. My Google Nexus 7 is my primary device at home and whenever I’m away from my desk at work for meetings, etc.

But, there is something to the simplicity of an economy e-book reader when it comes to reading a long form book, when you’re planning on sitting down for an hour or more and getting engrossed in 50 Shades of whatever.

“But I LOVE my iPad!” you say.

Yes, you do. But your iPad is expensive, a bit on the heavy side, you better not drop it because you spent so much on it, is basically unusable in direct sunlight, and has a battery that needs charging more than once a month. And it has all those pesky apps, and games, and email, and IM messages that are all just a swipe away, too convenient to resist. The basic Kindle, thankfully, has none of that fun, and for me, that’s the whole point. You can focus on the task at hand: reading.

I couldn’t imagine taking an $800 iPad to the beach, but if you get some sand or Cheese Doodle residue on a $69 Kindle… oh well. Treat it like any other book or magazine. Throw it on the table, jam it in your backpack, etc. because it’s a tough little bugger. And if it does break or get stolen, you’re out a whole lot less than you would be with a more full-featured tablet.

There’s a reason people bring paper plates to the beach and not their fine china. Save the cheap e-reader!

Raspberry Pi

I bought a Raspberry Pi… now what?

A few months ago I read a CNN article about a tiny computer that is essentially a miniature motherboard with ports for the typical peripherals. And it was only $25? Sign me up!

It’s called the Raspberry Pi, and after being on backorder for a month as I waited my turn with thousands of other geeks, it arrived at work a few days ago. A quick copying of the Raspbian operating system to an SD card, and plugging in a mouse, keyboard, monitor, and USB power adapter, was all it took to be up and running. Sweet!

The response from co-workers fell into two camps… either: “you got a Raspberry Pi!!” or “what the hell is that?” It is a fun bit of hardware to marvel at, but then comes the inevitable question, “what are you going to do with it?”

“Uh… I don’t know,” I say, before quickly diverting their attention to web sites featuring many of the cool things other people are doing with it, from custom cases to building a parallel computer to driving an Etch-a-Sketch. And kids are starting to use them in schools as learning devices, which is awesome.

But, I’ve got no clue yet what I might use it for and wonder how many of the million plus units that have been sold so far similarly sit like Charlie-in-the-boxes on islands of misfit toys waiting to be used for more than just a conversation piece. But I’ve got an elliptical trainer I don’t use either, and I spent a lot more than $25 on that!


The cold, clotheslines, sublimation… and cows

I took this shot a couple days ago on my way to the mall, thinking it would make a nice Facebook cover photo. Having grown up in a house without a clothesline, I noted that it seemed strange that someone would be hanging clothes out to dry in sub-freezing weather. Wouldn’t the clothes freeze and not dry on the line?

There were a couple of Facebook comments along the lines of, “I thought they were cows going into the barn, not clothes! LOL!” But my nephew, Greg, and brother-in-law, Bill, both mentioned sublimation, and that, yes, the wet, frozen shirts and pants on the line would indeed dry in the midst of a long, cold Syracuse winter.

Hmmmm, I thought. Really? Thinking back to high school science class (I’m not sure if this would be Earth Science or Chemistry), I only remembered sublimation involving dry ice (frozen C-O2) which went directly from a solid to a gaseous state without any real liquid to worry about. And that was only because room temperature was above the boiling point of C-O2. How could frozen H2-0 disappear into thin air when the air is cold enough for it to stay frozen?

It turns out Greg and Bill are right (no surprise). Ice in below freezing air does indeed slowly turn from a solid to gas without needing to pass through a liquid/melting state. And, ta-da! Dry clothes!

Wikipedia entry: Sublimation

And yes… I guess they do look like cows.