2012: The year of the universal cell phone charger

According to the Daily Green, the average lifespan of a cell phone is about eighteen months, with about 130 million retired annually in the US alone. That's a lot of cell phones.

That's also a lot of phone chargers. Unless you're replacing your phone with an identical model, odds are good that you must also replace your old charger with one specific to your new phone.

It's terrible for the environment, of course, to have so many different types of chargers out there - so many resources wasted designing and manufacturing all those different chargers - but it's also highly inconvenient. Accidentally leaving your charger at home during a trip generally means you'll have to live with not having a usable phone for a few days, or picking up yet another charger at a mobile phone store.

Wouldn't it be fantastic if, instead, all phone chargers used the same shaped connectors and the same amount of power? If you could just ask to borrow your colleagues' and family members' chargers?

Thanks to the GSMA (Groupe Especiale Mobile Association), this may happen in 2012. The GSMA, an influential global group whose members include cell phone manufacturers, wireless companies, software companies and internet providers, has brokered a deal with cell phone makers. Virtually every one of the major phone makers have pledged to create a universal cell phone charger by 2012, possibly using a micro-USB plug.

This is great news for everyone except iPhone users; CNET is reporting that Apple is not among the companies who have agreed to use the new proposed standard. Perhaps a little bit of pressure from consumers will help?

(via NBC.com and CNET.com)

Posted by Shelley    Category: eco | feature
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Miracle sour-to-sweet berries

Everyone's experienced the unpleasant sensation of eating something very sweet, say syrup-soaked pancakes, and then taken a bite or sip of something just slightly less sweet, like orange juice, and found that the juice suddenly tastes sour and bitter. How much nicer would it be if you could eat something sweet and make everything else you eat even sweeter? Miracle fruit tablets, or "miracle berries" accomplish just that by causing a protein reaction in your mouth which makes even the sourest, bitterest things, like a sharp lemon, taste sweet.


The geeks at ThinkGeek have tried the miracle fruit, and claim that it makes straight limes taste like the sweetest, most ambrosial limeade. Even better? Something already sweet, like ripe oranges, tasted like "they were plucked straight from the Garden of Eden."

While it's a bit strange, it's also quite appealing because unless you live near a farmer's market, you're unlikely to ever encounter truly ripe, fresh, naturally sweet fruit. Supermarket fruits are often gorgeous, with shiny luscious skins, but their beauty is superficial - take a bite and there's barely a hint of fruit taste at all. I am always longing for the sweet plums and cherries from my childhood, but except for peaches and strawberries, which my Mom grows in her yard, most fruits I eat are sub-par and need a sprinkling of sugar or Splenda. Perhaps the solution is to eat a Miracle fruit tablet before eating any other kind of fruit. One tablet's effects last up to an hour, and just a half-tablet is enough to sweeten most tart, acidic foods. There's nothing artificial in the tablets, just the fruit powder and corn starch.

A box of 10 tablets (which is really 20 servings) is $20 from ThinkGeek.

Posted by Mia    Category: eat/drink | feature
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Emergency gadgets for earthquakes


As you may have heard, we had an earthquake here in Southern California on Tuesday, July 29th. Measuring a "mild" 5.4 on the Richter scale, it was enough for our house to shake for minutes, the water in the pool to wash over the sides, and to scare us out of our PJs. Seismologists have drilled into us Californians that there is a 99% chance that the big one will hit in the next 30 years, so the common thought that comes to mind is: "Is this it?"

URGENT NOTE: The Red Cross has just established a "Safe and Well" website for today's earthquake so make sure to register, or if you can't find a loved one, input that info under "Search" function. For the best information on what do do after an earthquake, check out this page on the Red Cross site.

Experts recommend that you be prepared to be self-sufficient for at least three days in case of a natural disaster. You need to store your household disaster kit in an easily accessible, yet safe location (i.e., where it's least likely to have the house come down on it). We have our state-of-the-art EQ kit in a plastic garbage can with wheels so we can move it around - in our case, probably into the middle of the street.

Continue reading " Emergency gadgets for earthquakes"

Posted by Evan    Category: current affairs | devices | feature | home | misc gadgets | on the web
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Summer essentials - for your electronics


You packed the sunscreen and a trashy beach read, and are now looking in dismay at your tangle of electronics. Here are a few handy devices designed for travel to lighten your load. The ComboSaver, an easy-to-use combination lock from Kensington, has a low-profile design and self-coiling cable for easy travel. The cable, which anchors your laptop securely so it doesn't walk away, extends from 3-in to 6-ft and fits into the security slot found in 99 percent of notebook computers. $18.95 at Amazon.


You're renting a car? The LiquidAUX Bluetooth Car Kit, also by Kensington, takes up almost no room in your luggage and enables you to listen to your tunes through the car stereo and enjoy legal, hands-free talking. Two features to love: built-in microphone with advanced noise/echo canceling filter for clear conversations; and 2.4GHz wireless remote control lets you play/pause, skip tracks or answer calls on your phone. $74.99 at Amazon.

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Posted by Evan    Category: accessories | computers | feature | peripherals | shopping
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iPhone 3G- is it worth the fuss?

After 5 days now with the new iPhone 3G my feeling is, "Well done, Apple." Well done on the hype, the expectations, the ability to get people to line up day after day for fear that iPhones will soon become extinct, even though more and more get "unexpectedly shipped" each day. Do I sound bitter? Actually, I did very little waiting in line, although I gawked a lot, because it was a hot, hot weekend and I saw people looking near death as they waited for hours in the sun.

The lines were spectacular, and all made possible by the in-store activation that was required for each iPhone sold, a procedure made interminable by the overload on the iTunes servers. Last year, when the iPhone came out, I decided to wait until the fanatics all had theirs and there was no wait, and that turned out to be about 2 hours after they went on sale. Well this year, there are lots of people still pining for an iPhone, and many red "sold-out" notices on the iPhone availability site. If you're planning on stopping by the Apple store for your iPhone, thinking the craze has died down, I'd strongly advise you check the site to make sure your store has stock first. The list is only live while the store is closed so you have to check the night before.

On to the phone itself . . .

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Posted by Mia    Category: cell phones | feature | portable media
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PhoneTag's SimulSays visual voicemail for non-iPhones


I used to think, "What's the big deal about visual voicemail? Who cares?" But now that I've been using an iPhone for about a year, I get annoyed with any phone that doesn't have it. Prioritizing voicemail messages and going back to important saved messages is an exercise in pure frustration without a visual log. And there's nothing worse than calling someone back and admitting that you don't really remember what their message was about because you couldn't find it among your 99 other saved messages.

Anyone who has an iPhone can appreciate the benefits of visual voicemail, even if they weren't particularly excited about this feature when first introduced to it. But what if you don't have an iPhone and have no plans to get one in the near future (there are, after all, plenty of good reasons to choose a different smartphone, especially if you're not addicted to browsing on your mobile)?

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Posted by lydia    Category: cell phones | feature
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Verizon LG Decoy Phone


The Verizon Decoy launched this week ($179 on a two-year contract and after a $50 mail-in rebate) with the much-lauded built-in Bluetooth headset, as well as the usual specs, including a 2 megapixel camera, a 2.2-inch "mirror-like" 240 x 320 display, a micro SD card slot, V CAST music and video support.

Likes: Headset, tools, navigation, 5–way directional joystick, screen & camera resolution (though they could have bumped up to 3.0 megapixels), and sliding ability. My favorite feature? The Bluetooth headset which has superior sound quality; and I love that I can put it back in the phone when I'm finished using it. (Still, Verizon provides headset insurance, just in case.) One quibble: when the headset is out, the indentation worries my thumb, as if the cover is off.

Next, the tools: The calculator has the ability to do powers, for example 5^2=25. You never know when you may be called on to do advanced math, such as checking your tweenies' homework. Also, the EZ Tip Calculator is handy, if you're math challenged like me. Easy to set up, it makes that task very easy. The navigation software is intuitive.

If you like the Blackberry Pearl's scrolling "pearl," you'll like the joystick center button on the Decoy. And compared to a Razr, the resolution on the screen is very clear and bright.

Continue reading "Verizon LG Decoy Phone"

Posted by Evan    Category: cell phones | devices | feature
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How to plan a simple wedding. Yeah, right.


It's June, after all, so let's talk weddings. Simple weddings specifically. And let's be clear up front that there's no such thing. Some weddings are simpler than others, maybe, but the possibility of a truly simple wedding is a myth.

My suspicion is that simple weddings aren't possible because that's the way we like it. Nothing about marriage is simple. Why should the initiating event be any different?

Case in point: a wedding I attended a few weeks ago. The bride insisted she wanted things simple, but her idea of simple was to skip the caterer and have her mother do all the cooking. For 200 people. Including the wedding cake. And hold the wedding and reception, and feed all those people, at home.

The mother of the bride is an old friend, so all Spring I heard a great deal about the burdens of putting on a biggish wedding at home, and preparing all the food as well. But the MOB is an excellent cook who gives big parties featuring her food. Even though I thought it was demented, it was quite clear that she loved the challenge of putting on this wedding pretty much single-handed.

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Posted by Tam    Category: culture | feature
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Cell phone radiation and brain tumors


Come July 1, you can get a ticket for Talking While Driving in California. But no matter where we live, we all know we shouldn't drive while talking on cell phones because it increases the risk of accidents. An exception in California is car talk with a Bluetooth connection, but even hands-free phone time can be risky. Suppose you get distracted from driving because you're carrying on a Bluetooth argument with your cell service provider about mystery phone charges? Or with your kid for running up those charges?

But there's another potential danger from cell phones. What health risks, if any, might come from cell phone radiation? Especially risk of brain tumors?

I first wrote about this topic 8 years ago. While it's usually pleasant for a writer to discover that an ancient article is not yet out of date, this time it's a bit dismaying. In the year 2000 we didn't know for sure whether cell phone radiation could cause brain tumors. Now that cell phones are in the hands of maybe a billion people (and, more to the point, held to their ears only an inch or so from the brain), it's worrying to realize that nothing much has changed. We still don't know for sure.

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Posted by Tam    Category: body | cell phones | current affairs | feature
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06. 9.2008

What you need to know about Blu-ray

A survey published last week revealed that 55% of Americans who have HDTV don't know what Blu-ray is. Of those who did know, just 9% plan on buying a Blu-ray player anytime soon.

Considering that Blu-ray and HDTV go together like french fries and ketchup, it's a shame people aren't more aware of - and more enthusiastic about - the new DVD format. Unless you only ever rent movies from iTunes or have no interest in films whatsoever, it's hard to avoid ads for Blu-ray movies in every video store on and offline. There can't be many stores without a small but prominent Blu-ray section, and I've seen more than one confused customer try to check out a Blu-ray disc when they don't have the capacity to play it.

In short, it's worth learning what Blu-ray means. And if you have splashed out big bucks on a high definition (HD) television, it's worth thinking about investing in a Blu-ray DVD player.

Carry on over the cut to learn what Blu-ray is, and why you might want it...

Continue reading "What you need to know about Blu-ray"

Posted by diane    Category: devices | feature
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