Charge Your iPhone 4 With Sunlight

While we’ve been trying to beam the idea of a solar-embedded iPhone into Steve Job’s head (so far unsuccessfully), a design company called Frostfire is helping out with a solar-powered iPhone 4 case.

New Chumby One Arrives, Gets Unboxed

We don’t often cover much non-mobile tech, but I had to make an exception for the new Chumby One. Besides, the device now has a rechargable battery option, so theoretically, you could take it on the run — for an hour. 😉 The Chumby folks asked if I’d like to take a loaner unit for a spin, so I said sure. I was surprised to see the device show up this morning though — the new Chumby One doesn’t actually ship for another two weeks or so. You can pre-order one now at the new lower price of $99.
Like the original Chumby, the new device runs widgets, widgets and more widgets. These range from Twitter and Facebook to CBS Sports, Late Night with David Letterman and more. Using built in Wi-Fi, Chumby One is constantly connected to the web, where it can pull down info to its 3.5″ color touchscreen. There’s a built-in speaker, USB port, headphone jack and power port, plus a control knob and snooze-like control button on the top.
Right now my desktop is cluttered with bits of the Internet, which is why I wanted to see the Chumby One. I’m curious how much data and entertainment I can offload from my main workspace onto a widget-based device like the Chumby. I’ll use the li’l fella for a days and then report back on my findings. For now, here’s a quick look at the Chumby One that arrived today followed by a full list of the specs.

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How to Sample Esquire’s Augmented Reality with Pen and Paper

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Today is the day that Esquire’s Augmented Reality application hits newstands. Using a software download and image codes in the magazine, you can get a dose of AR. It’s an interesting concept although I’m not sure it adds value just yet. Still, when I saw a video demonstration of it, I thought was pretty wild to see. And then I got to thinking — if the software keys off of a simple black and white image in front of a webcam, could I duplicate the effect with a quick drawing?
Sure enough, my first attempt — which isn’t even all that neat of a drawing — did the trick as I tried it on camera. In the video you’ll see the Esquire AR software pick up my hand drawn image, which is really just an 8 x 8 set of cubes. There’s a little meter in the AR software to show how well it’s tracking the AR image and my sketch is getting 100%! I like how you can turn and tilt the AR code and the software moves the images to match on screen. Chalk this one up with the remote controlling a car with an iPhone bit — it’s not very valuable, but it was fun to try! 😉 I may have to run out and buy the magazine to see what other AR bits they have.

Steer and Drive a Car Using an iPhone

While I’d never advocate this hack from a safety perspective, it’s one of the most amazing uses of an iPhone I’ve seen yet. The real magic is in all of the motors and gizmos to make it work, but Make shows that the Do It Yourselfers at Waterloo Labs are actually driving a car using their handset. With a custom application, the gas and brake pedals are activated with slider controls — moving the sliders causes dedicated motors to depress the pedals using crescent wrenches. Steering is handled by another motor, but that one takes advantage of the iPhone’s accelerometer. Simply “turning” the iPhone clockwise or counter-clockwise allows the vehicle to steer.
Useful in the real world? Not so much. Fun to watch? You betcha!

Kohjinsha Dual Screen Netbook on Video

Remember that netbook we showed you a while back that had two screens for doubling your viewing pleasure? The Kohjinsha netbook is only a prototype, but a video has surfaced that shows how the thing works. The design is very well done, with one screen that slides behind the other. The notebook can thus be used as a normal netbook with one 10.1-inch screen, or as a dual-screen device with the other 10.1-inch screen extended. Take a look at the video and see if you’d find this a workable solution for those who need a wide screen.

(Netbook News via Liliputing)

Connectify Creates a 3G Hotspot With Your Windows 7 Computer

connectifyAs mobile enthusiasts, we really can’t live without our connectivity. To that end, James bought a MiFi device, while I use a mishmash of methods, including a Boingo Wi-Fi account, a 3G data plan with Verizon Wireless (s vz) and Internet tethering on my iPhone as a backup. There’s a number of ways to share our 3G connections — the MiFi does it natively — but Windows 7 adds a new feature that one company is already taking advantage of. Microsoft (s msft) added Virtual Wi-Fi, which uses software to virtualize one or more hardware wireless adapters. And as ReadWriteWeb notes, Connectify is offering beta software to use the new Windows 7 feature.

With Connectify, you have a software solution to share the data connection of your PC — a secure hotspot with WPA2-Personal (AES) encryption is created via a virtual Wi-Fi interface, so any other Wi-Fi device you have can take advantage of your mobile broadband connection. And this differs from tethering options we’ve covered in the past (here for PC and here for Mac OS X) because tethering generally only allows one other device to leverage the connection. By creating a Wi-Fi hotspot, multiple devices can join in.

The obvious disadvantage of a software solution is that it requires your Windows 7 computer to be up and running. That’s where hardware like the MiFi excels — you don’t need to have computer on because the MiFi creates its own hotspot. Still, I see the advantage, so I’m hopping on the beta train for Connectify right now.

Skooba Design Contest — Are You the Master of the Digital Universe?

Skooba MasterWe don’t usually plug contests that vendors run but this one has jkOnTheRun reader written all over it. Skooba Design, maker of gadget bags of every flavor, is running a contest looking for the Master of the Digital Universe. That sounds like you, dear reader. All you have to do is enter the contest by telling Skooba why you are the ultimate gear-head.

If you think you deserve to be named Master of the Digital Universe, we want to hear from you. We want your story. It’s not necessarily just about a laundry list of all the stuff you own (although if that’s what you want to send, that’s OK too). It’s about the big picture. This is a subjective contest, to be judged by the product designers, marketing and management team at Skooba Design. So if you think you’ve got a story, sell it. Tell us what you’ve got, what you carry, how you travel, how you use your tech, why you’re always 2 steps ahead of every technology development, whatever it may be. The better picture you paint, with words, images or video (more info on entry page), the better we can judge your story.

So get your story in to Skooba, I’m pretty confident many of you can be competitive. The prize package the winner gets is very unique, too. The grand prize winner gets to work with a Skooba designer to create the absolute, most perfect gear bag. This will end up being a one-of-a-kind bag that only the winner will have. Now that’s geek heaven.

Image courtesy Skooba Design

What’s the Definition of Wikipedia in Your Pocket?

I have to hand it to the folks at OpenMoko. The small company in Taipei says it creates “products that reflect the evolving perspective of our values and the experiences we share together.” Their latest reflection is a handheld device with one and only purpose — put the entire content of Wikipedia in your hand. The $99 WikiReader offers instant on capability and runs for months on a pair of AAA batteries. Wikipedia entries appear on the monochome touchscreen for your reading pleasure, but don’t expect to update any articles with your own content — there’s no interface to enter text, nor is there connectivity for any updates. Since the Wikipedia is constantly changing with new information, you can get updates via quarterly microSD cards, but that will cost you $29 annually. If you’re comfy with a 4+GB download, you can save the annual fee and pull the updates direct from the WikiReader site.

For cheating on Jeopardy! or the latest history test at school, the WikiReader might come in handy. But for now, I’ll stick with my phone and the real, live Wikipedia. Check Amazon for availability if you want the world’s biggest encyclopedia in your pocket.

HP Mobile Printing Comes to Symbian, Windows Mobile in November

HP iPrint PhotoEarly this year, HP developed a mobile iPhone app that enables wireless printing from a handset over Wi-Fi. Now the company announced expansion of its iPrint Photo app for both the Symbian and Windows Mobile platforms. The software will also gain new features, including “in-app photo capture, print quality enhancement, support for different types of paper and additional photo print sizes – 3×5, 4×6, 5×7.” The orignal app for iPhone is only capable of printing 4×6 prints, but it too, will gain the new features. Symbian and WinMo handset owners will find the app in the Ovi store and Windows Marketplace, respectively.

You’ll need an HP printer on your wireless network for printing to work, of course. But it’s a handy, wire-free way to get prints from a smartphone, no?

Challenges Seen for Augmented Reality, but Virtual Future Looks Bright

Yelp's new AR feature further proves I live in the sticksBack in August, I got my first taste of augmented reality (AR) courtesy of Yelp’s easter egg. The iPhone version of this location based application combines geographical data with a camera to show nearby points of interest in the virtual view. The experience proved to me that I’m not ready for augmented reality just yet — I live too far from everything and the method was more cumbersome than good old search. And the second point is was the killer for me. But there is plenty of potential here and when taking that into account, I’m looking forward to improved augmented reality experiences.

How might that happen? The AR approach has to add more value and be easier to use than a currently available situation for me to use it. Since I can use any modern mapping app to find static locations nearby, the Yelp implementation isn’t something I’d use often. But user generated content might be appealing, provided it comes from a broad base of UGC platforms. I’d also like to get a virtual view of other data layers that change a little more often than brick-and-mortar storefronts.

Colin Gibbs envisions similar augmented reality opportunities in his recent GigaOM Pro report (subscription required). Since I’ve only had a cursory experience with AR, it was interesting to hear about other current solutions, future plans and challenges the AR experience faces. The most impressive one Colin mentioned was Layar for the Android platform. Like Yelp, it uses the camera to “see” your reality and then adds virtual layers of information to the view. This video demonstration impressed me enough to install the app on a G1 handset. In the demo, Layar is used in a neighborhood to show which homes are for sale, info about the home and a hot link to call the realtor. And that’s just one of many data layers available in the app: Wikipedia, Twitter, Flickr and plenty more can be layered into your reality.

What makes this all work is the smartphones of today, Colin notes. The devices have virtually been enterprise-centric until recent years, but now feature phones are on the decline and smartphones are the future kings. Processing power has increased at the same time that wireless broadband has expanded in coverage and speed. Combined with massive amounts of useful data, the smartphone of today just might be my window into the world of tomorrow — both real and virtual.

Care to share any augmented reality experiences or have any other AR apps for me to look at?