Monday, November 05, 2007

LTB Q-BEAN-STB Wireless Stereo Headphone

I've been looking off and on for a decent wireless headphone solution for listening to TV at home without disturbing my family.

Last week, I found the LTB Q-BEAN-STB -- A wireless adapter that plugs into the headset of your Audio Video system and broadcasts true stereo to a small reciever.

The receiver is worn on a lanyard around the neck or pinned to clothing. You then plug your normal Stereo headphones into the receiver.

My package arrived last week and this weekend during the football games was my first chance to give it a try.

The BEAN has a rechargable battery. The base station is either powered by the same cable that charges the BEAN or by 3 AAA batteries.

My initial impression is very positive. The bean works well, sound quality for TV was excellent, and there were no interruptions anywhere in my house. The AV system is located on the main floor in the front of the house, and I was able to go upstairs and to the basement without any interference.

Two big thumbs up.

Tags: , wireless

Excel 2007 Very slow to open external files

Excel opens external files very slowly

If you open an Excel 2007 file by double clicking on a desktop icon, or explorer or from an outlook attachment, the file opens very slowly -- 30 seconds or more...

This is caused by a bad setting in the windows Explorer file type. To fix it in Windows XP try the following:

  1. Open Windows Explorer (explorer.exe)
  2. Select Tools | Folder Options from the menu
  3. Go to the file types tab
  4. Select the XLS file type (for Excel 97-2003 files)
  5. Click the Advanced button
  6. Select Open
  7. Click the Edit Button
  8. In the Application used to perform action, change the text from:
"C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office12\EXCEL.EXE" /e
"C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office12\EXCEL.EXE" /e "%1"

Note the double quotes around the %1, they are required.

Nolw repeat steps 4-8 for the xlsx file type (Excel 2007 files)

Tags: excel, bug

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Electric Powered Dragsters

Electric powered vehicles are starting to make a dent in the lower and mid tiers of racing.

This article mentions a motorcycle powered by lithium ion batteries with a 0-60 time of 1 second.

The technology is feasible now, so here's hoping that by the time I need my next car in a few years, there will be a true plug in Electric or dual fuel that supports plug-in electric car available.

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Monday, June 25, 2007

Bio Reactive Generator turns trash to electricity

Researchers at Purdue university have built a bioreactive generator that takes in trash and produces electricity. The US Army is interested because it can both reduce the trash generated in field ops and can provide the electricity needed to run critical equipment.

It's still pretty small scale for now, but it provides two bangs for the buck, so I hope this gets funded and moves forward.


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Google Does Philanthropy Right

Google's latest philanthropic efforts are impressive to my eyes.

Google is attempting taking actual direct, steps to attempt to jump start plug-in hybrid cars, and is applying some of the creative genius that they company is famous for, not just throwing money at existing charities.

First, Google installed Solar Panels on the roofs of all of it's campus buildings. The panels will generate roughly 1/3rd of Google's total power needs. This is a normal sort of step and although commendable, it's pretty pedestrian for a company trying to either look or be green.'s (the philanthropic arm of Google) latest program is aimed at promoting plug-in Hybrid cars. Plug-in hybrids differ from normal hybrid's in that they can charge the batteries directly from a wall socket power source instead of charging only from the gas half of the hybrid engine. While a normal hybrid can get very good mileage, it still requires gasoline for every mile that it is driven.

A plug-in hybrid can satisfy all normal driving without burning any gasoline. The gas part of the engine is only needed for extended trips.

Normal Hybrids are more aimed at allowing car companies to meet federal miles per gallon regulations than they are at solving the global energy problems. Don't get me wrong, hybrids are practical and make a very positive contribution to the broader energy problems.

Plug-in Hybrids are a much more direct attack on the energy problem. They not only increase the average miles per gallon, but they can eliminate the gallons completely from the equation for normal driving patterns.

And Google's additional twist is that the plug in hybrid cars can act as batteries for the electrical power network, allowing excess electrical energy to be stored and reused rather than discarded. The power network currently does not have an effective mechanism to store power for peak needs so it has to over generate.

Millons of Plug In Hybrid cars could store energy in their batteries during off peak times, and feed some of that energy back into the power grid at peak times.

I don't have any clue if enough energy could be stored in cars to really effect power distribution. But, I give Google kudos for attacking the energy problem with a combination of pragmatism and innovation.

Corporate philanthropy for our leading Corporate innovators should be about more than throwing money at existing charity organizations. They should employ some of their most valuable assets (their creativity) not just their money.

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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Brief instructions on using the I-Roast 2 coffee roaster

A couple of weeks ago, I started another newbie on the route to home roasting.

He roasted his first batch over the weekend and burnt the first batch to an expresso roast by accident.

So, to help anyone out there who is new to the I-Roast. Please do not assume that you can choose Pre-Set 1 or Pre-Set 2, hit the roast button and then walk away. The actual roast you get will vary from machine to machine, but it is likely to be a very dark roast.

Instead, press the pre-set 1, and set a timer for 5 and 1/2 minutes. When the timer goes off, run (don't walk) back to your roaster and sit with it until it reaches the roast that you want. Then manually hit the cool button.

I've set up various custom roasting programs, but the variance in roast is pretty significant and seems to vary based on the bean density, the bean size, the amount of beans in the hopper, the temperature and the humididty.

After you are experienced, you may want to try your hand at roasting programs, but as a newbie make sure you keep an eye on your roast.

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Intriguing early stage technology to convert waste heat to electricity

It's a long way from practical, but scientists at the University of Utah have
created technology that takes waste heat and converts it first into sound and then into electricity.

Not immediately relevant, but still an interesting thought. May eventually have applications in solar panels, electronics cooling...

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Coffee Roaster Comments Update

Most of a year ago, I posted on a friend's Blog about Home Coffee Roasters. At the time, My flat bed roaster was in the process of going belly up, and I was experimenting with a new iRoast 2 machine from HearthWare.
It's several months later, and I can now report the the IRoast is a much better machine than then previous Hearthware coffee roasters that I have owned. The electronics are much better and much better shieled, and as a result it is much more durable.

I've replaced a couple of plastic pieces (as a result of my dropping them) but the electronic base / heater is still going strong.

Due to the volume of coffee that I roast for the office, I've now purchased a second iRoast2.

My only complaint is that it is too sophisticated for the programming interface that it has. There are only a couple of buttons, and as a result custom programming is an error prone and tedious process.

That's a pain, but it is generally a one time pain, since you don't program it again once you have the roast profiles you want stored in the bases non-volatile memory. So, Again, I give this a big thumbs up. The original Hearthware roasters worked well for a brief period of time, but the electronics were not protected from the units own heat well enough and they tended to have very short lives. Hearthware seems to have fixed this problem with the IRoast 2 version.

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Swiss Diamond Cookware

My wife and I are pretty active cooks... In fact, my two teenage boys can probably outcook most adults when they want to. Like most kitchens, ours has seen a long line of non-stick cookware. Everything from the very cheap to the very expensive.

About 8 months ago, I was looking to replace the latest nonstick pan casualty, when I tripped across the Swiss Diamond brand via a general search on Amazon. The description looked to good to be true, and after years of durabilty promises, I was a bit skeptical.

But, after several months of very heavy use the two frying pans that I purchased still work and look like new. I've purchased a set for my mother, and will be buying more in the future. Very highly recommended.

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Toshiba Direct -- Buying a new laptop

We recently needed to buy a new Windows laptop. The laptop was needed to:

  1. give my wife a fallback computer while the lap top she uses for her consulting gig is repaired
  2. to replace an aged family desktop.

As is my usual style, I investigated the options to death. I looked at DELL's web site (we have corporate discount), at HP and IBM's web sites, at NewEgg, TigerDirect and as well as all of the usual suspects in local outlets (CompUSA, Best Buy, Costco, MicroCenter, Circuit City...

The lap top will be used for general computing including Visual Studio development, Game Playing and normal Internet/Office activities. Decent game performance is a priority, since that is the most taxing task we will likely push at it.

The last time I bought a laptop, I ended up buying it locally at one of the usual suspects, because my wife was starting a consulting gig in a couple of days and she needed it right away. I was also naive enough to think that a local shop would make the warranty more useful / valuable.

This time around, I was less naive. The local warranty we had purchased last time around only lived up to the letter of the agreement. As the sales guy claimed: We were able to just drop the laptop off, and they would take care of any and all issues. What they didn't tell me was that for laptops, they don't fix it locally, they just mail it off to a third party repair center with a two week turnaround. So much for a local warranty, it saved me the trouble of boxing it up and going to the local UPS store. The machine has now been gone for 6 weeks. I think they fixed the original problem (the fan was making a very loud noise) but they had not properly reconnected all of the cables and the laptop would not power on. This was fixed in two weeks again, but they didn't get the power buttons aligned properly and it would not consistently turn on and off. No more paying a premium for local warranties for me, at least for laptops.

Anyway, back to the point of this post. I had pretty well settled on a Toshiba laptop, so the choice was one of the local usual suspects, a web based computer center (NewEgg, TigerDirect...) or... Topshiba Direct.

Well this turned out to be a no brainer. Toshiba Direct offered a newer, better model than I could get at the other outlets and at a better price. It had a better screen, was bundled with Vista Ultimate and best of all had an nVidia 7900GTX based video card instead of the nVidia 7600 offered at the other outlets. And it was a couple of hundred dollars cheaper, especially when you figured in the 3 year comprehensive warranty that was about 1/2 the price. Yes, if it's broken, I will have to mail it back myself. But I got a heck of a deal on a very nice laptop and it arrived via UPS in 3 days.

So, bottom line, if you are looking at a Toshiba laptop, do yourself a favor and compare what you can get from Toshiba Direct. I am very glad that I did.

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