4 New Gadgets, Appliances, and Apps You Could Certainly Use Around The House

Your gadgets have served you well perhaps for some years already, but it doesn’t hurt to have a look at some new ones that are worth shelling out some greenbacks on. I think it’s about time we talk about some new and exciting technologies that may just be the solution to many of your problems. We’re talking about portable “take it with you” USB device chargers, smart refrigerators, apps that let you reinforce positive behavior from children, and cable organizers that actually work.

#1: The HyperJuice Plug
The HyperJuice plug is basically a battery inside a battery that lets you charge virtually any USB-chargeable device. The product is marketed for Apple devices, but it can certainly charge a Kindle Fire or anything else that you want to put into it. When the charger runs out of juice, just slide out the prongs in the end and connect it to a wall socket!

Picture this: You’re walking around with your iPad, Kindle Fire, or Microsoft Surface – whatever floats your boat – and you get this annoying notification telling you that you only have like 5 percent of your battery life left. You feel like you’re in a James Bond movie deactivating a bomb while there’s only 20 seconds left on the clock. Fortunately, you have your HyperJuice plug in your pocket (if you didn’t forget it at home like I often do with almost everything) and then you plug the tablet right into the device. Now, you might have the discomfort of a cable hanging out of your pants, but your device continues living, and Celine Dion sings “My Heart Will Go On” right next to you. Isn’t that sweet?

#2: Fisher & Paykel’s “Smart” Fridge
YES! Smart fridge! This actually exists now, thanks to Fisher & Paykel – a company that specializes in making your home a brighter place to live in. We’ve been integrating tons of computers inside our washing machines, dishwashers, and ovens. So, why not the fridge? After all, this is the appliance you solely rely on to ensure the prosperity of your perishable goods. Are you going to tell me you’ve never wished that your fridge could individually monitor and care after each individual item of food based on its specific needs?

Not only does Fisher & Paykel’s fridge do this, but it also learns your habits and adjusts its behavior accordingly. If you’re not sure what it means, that’s OK.

#3: ‘Caught Being Good’ iPhone App by Hyceit (For Those With Kids)
So, you have kids. I guess you understand that they’re going to be quite temperate little creatures with short fuses. How could an iPhone app possibly help? Apparently, Hyceit came up with a simple answer. Psychologists have long preached about how reinforcing positive behavior can have very astounding effects in a child’s overall attitude. If you have a child that just does absolutely everything you tell him or her not to do, perhaps “Caught Being Good” can help you achieve parenting nirvana.

Caught Being Good is an app that works in the following manner: Your child behaves well, and you say, “Oh, you’ve been caught being good!” Now, you can present your iPhone with the app open to let your child spin a wheel with multiple colors, each one representing a reward. Just like in wheel of fortune, the wheel will eventually land on a color. Now, you give your child his or her reward. There are some useful samples on their site.

#4: Targus Wrap-N-Go Cable Organizer
If you have an obsession with keeping things clean and organized (like my cats do), then you’ve probably seen every cable organizer there is (unlike my cats). Perhaps it’s a pet peeve of mine, or maybe it’s something other people share with me, but have you actually used any of these things? And if you have, didn’t you notice how disgusting it looks when you’re done wrapping up the cables? To me, it looks like you just rolled up some guts on that rig. It’s just not aesthetically pleasant at all and, honestly, I’d rather wrap the cables around my neck and hang myself.

Well, Targus came up with something quite spectacular, called the “Wrap-N-Go” cable organizer. This nifty little tool tucks cables into a neat little space so that the guts don’t show. Allow me to show you what I’m talking about:The little bugger even comes with a suction cup to keep itself seated. Beat that, other cable organizer companies! Targus, you’re doing it right!

Portable Printers: A New Mobility Solution or Just a Gimmick?

We’ve seen all sorts of improvements in our lives brought about by portable computing. We have tablets, smartphones, etc. But have you noticed the great supply of portable scanners we have, yet not many people buy them? Perhaps the public doesn’t know they exist? What about portable printers? This is inexcusable! How can people not buy those?

It took almost 600 years to get from the printing press to a point where a large number of households have their own printers with overly expensive ink cartridges that spit out ink even when the printer isn’t printing anything.

But how long will it be until a large number of people have portable printers they can grab and take with them along with their tablets? Practical solutions have already been developed, such as the Brother PocketJet 6 Plus. This portable printer allows you to enjoy printing wherever you go without having to lug around a whole bunch of equipment. It also operates on Bluetooth. That’s pretty and all, but you still have to attach today’s portable printer to another computing device. That eliminates the mobility factor. What I’m waiting for is a printer that has sufficient autonomy to give me absolute power over what I bring with me. That’s what the word “mobility” is, by my definition.

How do Portable Printers Work?

A portable printer has about the same function as a home printer system. It might even be less complicated! The printer has a feed system and rollers, just like the one at home. There are some parts missing, however, to ensure that you don’t have to carry a large plastic box. Portable printers have a small casing that usually resembles a beam. This is kind of like how portable scanners look, as well. Compare these two images:

1) A portable printer
2) A portable scanner

Aside from the obvious, there’s also a difference in the printing mechanism by which the “ink” appears on paper: Portable printers use thermal transfer instead of the traditional cartridge modules. Read more about the method here. This enhanced method of printing lets you have more financial control over the printing process, and allows you to have a very tiny casing that maximizes your mobility.

An ideal portable printer will have absolutely no need to be connected to a computer, allowing you to select documents from within its internal or peripheral memory. There are portable scanners that allow you to scan a document into internal memory or a MicroSD/SD card.

The Drawback

Try using normal paper on a thermal printer. Woah! No image! That’s because portable printers often use thermal technology that requires a special thermal paper that has a layer of material that reacts to heat. This heating process will, as a consequence, print an image. That’s why these little paper spitters don’t require a whole lot of maintenance and cartridge swapping. You have to make a choice between a clear and crisp color image from a home printer or the amazing mobility of a portable solution.

HOW COMPUTERS WORK – PART 12 – DISPLAY AND GRAPHICS CARD [MEGA SERIES]

Understanding Pixels

Your computer understands what it displays on the screen as a grid, made up of small dots known as pixels. Each pixel composes a tiny piece of the images you see. If you lean closely on your screen while it’s on, you’d notice a ton of little dots and kill a few neurons while you’re at it. Now you know why I’m nuts. But let’s not talk about my need for solitary confinement. We’re talking about pixels, not magical pixies.

Understanding Resolution

A resolution, in pixels, determines how many vertical and horizontal pixels a screen must show. A resolution of 800×600, for example, tells the monitor to make a grid of 800 horizontal pixels by 600 vertical pixels, making a total sum of 480 thousand pixels. Go ahead and try to figure out how many pixels a 1920×1080 resolution has. This is a generally accepted HD resolution for monitors with a 16:9 aspect ratio, which brings us to.

Understanding Aspect Ratio

Aspect ratio is one of the easiest concepts to understand. Your head has a ratio to everything in your body. Aspect ratio measures the ratio between the “x” and “y” axes on a display. Two types of ratios generally exist for monitors: 4:3 and 16:9.

Widescreen monitors have a 16:9 ratio almost all the time. The majority of non-widescreen monitors have a 4:3 ratio.

Examples of 16:9 ratio resolutions:

  • 640×360
  • 854×480
  • 960×540
  • 1024×576
  • 1280×720
  • 1600×900
  • 1920×1080
  • 2048×1152
  • 2560×1440
  • 3840×2160, and
  • 4096×2304

Understanding The Monitor

So, the computer now has all these pixels. Where do we put them? Your computer will often regurgitate pixels onto a screen at a rate of 60 or more times per second. I’m sorry if you were about to eat lunch, but I had to use something descriptive to catch your attention while talking about something boring.

Monitors usually come in two different types:

  • Flat panel LCD/LED/OLED/AMOLED/”Whatever the hell someone else invents later” monitors.
  • Cathode ray tube (CRT) monitors.

How CRT Monitors Work

Even today, several people and organizations use CRT monitors, either because they didn’t bother to upgrade to LCD panels, or because they believe there’s some sort of magical advantage in using them. Granted, sometimes you need a monitor that can shoot images 100 times per second, but that’s not why people still use them, generally.

The majority of CRT monitors had a 4:3 ratio, meaning they supported resolutions at 800×600, 1024×768, and so on. Their primary function comes from a phosphor screen mounted behind the glass. This screen has very tiny red, blue, and green dots that glow when hit by a concentrated beam of electrons. An electron gun fires rapidly at this screen, creating an image out of all the dots. Here’s an image of it by HowStuffWorks.Com:

Electron beams inside the monitor have a particular width, obviously. No matter how concentrated the electron beam is, it will pass into other phosphor contacts, “contaminating” them, unless you have something like a shadow mask. In fact, let’s show you InfoCellar’s version of a monitor “tube.” This is the tube that sits inside all that plastic casing around a CRT monitor:

How LCD Monitors Work

A basic LCD monitor has two pieces of polarized glass held at a distance, with an electrode and liquid crystal between them. These polarized bits of glass are often known as substrate. Electrical signals are sent to the electrodes to allow a certain amount of light to pass through them. Each LCD screen has a backlight that produces the light necessary for the screen to display its images. You see, liquid crystal doesn’t light up on its own.

That would be like saying that I would be able to make my nipples glow in the dark by electrifying them. Trust me, I tried. It does NOT work!

Like any other display, an LCD monitor uses a coordinate grid system to determine what electrodes need to be charged. Each coordinate corresponds to a certain pixel in the display. The simplicity of LCDs is outweighed by the intricacy required to make them. You need very precise equipment to manufacture an LCD screen.

Understanding Graphics Cards

The graphics card was mentioned earlier in a section of this series called “How Computers Work – Motherboards II.” If you haven’t had a look at it, go ahead and review “The Peripheral Bus.”

So, a graphics card uses the peripheral bus to send and receive messages to and from the Central Processing Unit (CPU). Many graphics cards come with a GPU, which works as an independent CPU that’s dedicated to processing graphics, hence its un-abbreviated name: The Graphics Processing Unit. Usually, because of the high power requirements of the GPU, a graphics card will often need its own dedicated power cable from the power supply.

The graphics card’s principal function is to render graphics from data. It tells the computer what to draw when it’s already received data about polygons and such that need to be animated during a video game. Movies are a piece of cake. Rendering video that’s improvised “on the fly,” however, is difficult. That’s why these buggers exist. They even have their own RAM, at times, to store data related to what kind of video they’re rendering. Sometimes, graphical information about windows you currently have open get dumped directly into the graphics card’s RAM instead of your computer’s own physical memory.

The monitor connects directly to the graphics card to receive translated signals that show exactly where to stick its pixels. The monitor will shovel those pixels up and splatter them all over the screen, showing you (gasp!) an image.

Here’s how a graphics card looks like, in diagram form, courtesy of HowStuffWorks:

Note: Some computers don’t have graphics cards attached to their motherboards. These computers have what is often called “on-board graphics.” On-board graphics systems work in a similar manner, except that resources are shared. Instead of having its own dedicated memory and GPU, an on-board graphics system will often leech from the computer’s own RAM and CPU power to provide the graphics you see on your monitor.

Beware of the leech! Buy yourself a dedicated graphics card instead of relying on an on-board graphics system! You don’t want to be the loser whose iPad works faster than your PC.

There are many other things involved in graphics card technology, which we might explain in a later segment.

 

Solar Powered Keyboards and Battery-Free Mice: Greener Innovations for The Modern Home

There are innovations in technology that reduce the fingerprint we create on the environment and we have to give recognition to everyone that has made the effort to walk the extra mile and make high-powered hardware that doesn’t guzzle down exorbitant amounts of power.

Genius Makes a Battery-Free Mouse: DX-ECO BlueEye

Of all things that run out of batteries quickly, the mouse is one of the most annoying wireless devices to maintain. My Logitech MX Revolution mouse has an internal rechargeable battery that lasts just shy of 10 days with light usage. While most mice can top that, it’s still a blunder to know that your mouse battery ran out. Heck, it’s a blunder to know that any battery ran out. We’re aware of that, and so was Genius, a company that makes affordable entry-level electronics and products for computers.

Genius came up with a battery-free mouse known as the DX-ECO BlueEye.

The DX-ECO BlueEye is a beauty compared to other products TTG has sampled from this company, and I’m serious when I say that I tip my hat to them for the effort. It almost looks like the MX Revolution mouse from Logitech.
Still, the DX-ECO BlueEye needs a recharge through a micro USB cable, since it still operates on an internal gold capacitor. Sources say that it will be sold for just under 40 USD. Take it from me: If you aren’t absolutely blown away by the awesomeness of the mouse, you can still use it as an adorable paperweight.

Logitech Has a Solar-Powered Keyboard: K750

We have to recognize that the most prestigious manufacturer of computer peripherals has always been Logitech, for its affordable mid- to high-range keyboards and mice. What people don’t know about Logitech, though, is that it made a solar-powered keyboard, known as the Logitech K750.

If you look closely, you can see the huge photovoltaic cells on the keyboard. This one isn’t going to need a whole lot of backup battery power, but you can imagine how it might be when you switch off the lights in the house while trying to watch cat videos in privacy.

World’s Smallest Storage Unit Consists of 12 Atoms, Stores One Bit of Information

Nowadays, gadgets have been storing information in smaller spaces and condensing the information to compensate for a lack of circuit board space. Now, we finally have a solution that might make even the smallest smartphone store very huge volumes of data in a space as tiny as your fingernail. I’m not talking about something like a 16 GB microSD card. I’m talking about the potential for a 256 GB storage capacity in roughly the same space as the aforementioned card.Currently, the smallest storage units measure around 32 nanometers, sometimes less. Still, that’s enormous compared to what I’m about to present to you: A transistor/storage unit that takes up a maximum of 3 by 1 nanometers, or the area occupied by 12 measly atoms. To get an idea of how small 32 nanometers is, have a look at a single hair. That, in itself, measures approximately 10 thousand nanometers. Now, imagine something several thousand times smaller than this. There’s your atomic transistor!

This magnetic data storage unit can inflate hard drive capacity significantly. The only problem is cost. As the hard drives become more mainstream, they will be easier to manufacture, driving the price down. Note that the unit can store one bit. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, read this. This means that one byte would occupy 96 atoms, or roughly 48 square nanometers, of space – a tiny speck compared to the gigantic blobs we currently use to store our information.

Just how reliable is it? I suppose that having smaller storage units would make a drive a bit more delicate, but that can be compensated with certain measures. First of all, the drive would have to be a perfect vacuum, so that no other matter can interfere with the I/O process. To understand what a drive needs, you really need to read up on how it works.

We can thank IBM Research for coming up with this little nut. Now, let’s hope that we can get smaller data storage onto a full-fledged hard drive.