The e-Book future…

Amazon’s Kindle is getting a lot of well-deserved press, even if it’s a first-generation device I’m unlikely to buy. (The short version: too low-res, too bulky, no PDF support.)

Of course, it goes without saying that the future e-Book would be far lighter than the present version, with longer battery life, and more flexible. What does it look like, when it’s finally light enough, and cheap enough?

Google could mint them by the millions, with Google AdWords embedded in the margins of every page, and could mail them out to people, like AOL floppy disks, or hand them out in Las Vegas like pornographic come-ons for strip clubs and escort services. They’d be free to use, free to connect to the Internet, and self-funding, so long as the AdWords revenue holds out.

You’d have all your books stored online, like WebMail, with some sort of token-based instant login, so you wouldn’t bother to take it with you if you were done. Instead, you might leave it on a bus stop bench, or in a cafe. Someone might want to check e-mail, or read a book, and pick it up, then put it down somewhere else again. And all the time, the ads roll by…

PID-Controlled Slow Cooker

This week, my Cuisinart CSC-650 Slow Cooker trashed another batch of food. The temperature was too hot, and stayed too hot, and burned the heck out of my sweet potatoes. When I made stock this week, it also cooked too hot, and spit and made a mess of the countertop. The Amazon reviews suggest that many other people have the same problems that I did.
The Cuisinart has ruined food before, but enough was enough. This time, I gave up on the cooker, and got permission from my lovely wife to disassemble it. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to have a real thermostat, so it wasn’t something I could adjust. I ended up trashing the device, which was somewhat cathartic (not as cathartic as fixing it would have been). Oh well, I wasn’t going to be using it again anyway.
Wikipedia says that , for “safety” reasons. A couple of people have also looked into hacking slow cookers, but nobody seems to have done much work to solve the problem.
I’ve considered just buying another slow cooker after reading some reviews and meta-reviews, but I feel sure that whatever I get will just cook at too high a temperature.
What I really want is a tweaked-out slow cooker with a PID controller that’s content to let me cook at “unsafe” temperatures. It looks like this Hamilton Beach model actually uses a temperature probe to control cooking, and at $50 I might give it a try, but the absence of a high-end gadget model with more precise controls is disappointing at best.

Liquid Emissions Testing

Walking down a damp Seattle street the other day, I was struck by the shimmer of motor oil on the street. Sure, it’s a lovely rainbow color, but the stuff is toxic, right?

I know cars get leaks, but at annual tailpipe emissions testing, they should sit your car on a platform for an hour, and if a substantial quantity of oil leaks, no emissions pass for you.

I don’t want it in my air, and I don’t want it in my soil or my water, either.

Revenge of the spimes!

Slashdot reported a computer security paper demonstrating a computer virus disseminated via RFID tags.

Bruce, this is what happens when your spimes grow up. Imagine the house-building scene near the beginning of Distraction, where the virus-laden bricks configure the self-building house into a military barracks, instead, or where all of those man-hours result in a sidewalk that spells out “All Your Base Are Belong To Us,” or a house with a literal “backdoor” that could be used by the virus-writer to pillage its contents.

Or where, upon disassembly of the spimes for parts-reuse, a wooden piece is jammed where a silicone piece should go. It’s a 21st century sabot.

[ Edit 2006-03-13 18:07 PST: Bruce himself has now blogged this here, here, and here. ]

Urban Soft-Shell Outerwear

Soft-shell outerwear has lots of advantages: it’s lightweight, water-resistant, breathable, and warm. But all of it is styled for hikers, or people who want to look outdoorsy.

I don’t. I want to look slick, urban, professional. (Those of you who know me can stop laughing now.) I want soft-shell outerwear that looks right with what I wear. A blazer, maybe. Or a trenchcoat.

Simple Vending Machine Fix

Maybe I’m just whining, but I’d really like it if they’d put a piece of foam at the bottom of the vending machine, where the product drops down. Every time I buy a pack of M&Ms, I cringe as the package hits the bottom of the machine. I can hear that hard candy shell crack open like an egg…

Starbucks Vending Machines

I recently saw the live lobster vending machine, and I love it.

But here’s a problem closer to my heart: I rarely carry cash anymore, and only obtain it in quantity before going to the Farmer’s Market on Sundays. This causes problems at work, when I want a quick snack from the vending machine.

We should be able to use our RFID badges, which we can use in the cafeteria with money values kept on the network, in vending machines on campus. But we can’t.

Starbucks, with whom my place of work has a long-term relationship, has stored-value cards. Those should work in vending machines. Those should work in the vending machines here.

Guess I’ll keep waiting.