Third World Wind Power – Forget Turbines

The smartest solutions are always the simplest ones. The ones where you go ‘Doh! Why didn’t I think of that?” It’s because you weren’t looking in the right place at the right time.

Case in point is 28-year old engineer Shawn Frayne, who recently won Popular Mechanic’s 2007 Breakthrough Award. He was working in Haiti and needed a way to create wind power to small devices such as torches and radios. Small turbines weren’t an option, as they are very expensive.

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You might have seen the video of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge (pictured here) violently twisting and then collapsing from a mild 40mph wind that wouldn’t even blow over your grandmother. The reason for this was what is called Aeroelastic Flutter.

So Shawn figured out if a little bit of wind could cause a massive bridge to flutter like a harmonica, he certainly could power a few radios from it.

So he built a ‘Wind Belt’ generator, it costs $2 to make using off-the-shelf materials and is 10 times more efficient than a micro wind turbine. Click here to see the video.

Now, let’s see if I can get a larger version to power my geyser…

Seven Must Have Mac OS X Applications

I’ve been using Mac OS X for a few months now and thought I’d list my 7 absolute must-have applications. You could probably live without some of these, but your life simply wouldn’t be as great as it could be! All of the programs listed below don’t cost a cent.

QuickSilver

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If you get only one application for your new Mac, this is it. QuickSilver is a launcher (similar to SpotLight) on steroids. With a few keystrokes, not only will you be able to launch your applications within milliseconds, you can also move and copy files or send emails without touching your mouse. You do have to take a bit of time to learn how to use this powerful tool, but this is made so much fun by the excellent video tutorials you’ll feel as if you solved the Rubik’s Cube. You’ll also look like an absolute wizard in front of your friends and even make Linux command line geeks look like retards. Start with this excellent video tutorial on YouTube.

Camino

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Camino just makes more sense than Safari, Mac OS X’s built-in browser. Camino is based on Mozilla, and as such has vastly more plugins and addons available. Unlike Safari’s Search box which only searches Google, with a little fiddling Camino allows you to choose from multiple search engines, including Wikipedia and del.icio.us. And unlike Firefox, Camino is just a bit more ‘native’ to Mac, including KeyChain access. UPDATE: After a bit of a spin with Camino, I must admit I prefer Firefox over Camino, it has a better search toolbar and many more extensions are available.

Adium

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Adium is a slick multi-protocol chat client that allows you to chat with your mates, regardless whether they’re using MSN, AIM, Yahoo Messenger, ICQ, Google Talk or Jabber. It also quacks at you whenever you receive a message. What more could you want?

Smultron

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Smultron is a great little open source text editor if you’re going to do any coding. It’s a Cocoa App, which means it’s built from the ground up for Mac OS X, rather than being ported from another OS. It’s features include are tabs, line numbers, support for syntax colouring for many differentlanguages, functions list, support for text encodings, snippets, atoolbar, a status bar, preview, split window, multi-document find andreplace with regular expressions, possibility to show invisiblecharacters and many more! If you want a WYSIWYG web editor instead, have a look at NVU.

VLC

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You’ll quickly find out that QuickTime doesn’t play many of the (nefarious) videos you can download from the net these days, including anything encoded using Windows Media format. You can struggle with plug-ins, or you could simply get the best video player out there.

HandBrake

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So you’ve bought the entire collection of Planet Earth just in time for the holidays. However, you don’t want to carry all the DVDs around with you. Enter HandBrake to quickly and easily rip all your DVDs to mpeg format so you can store the entire series on your 4GB Flash Drive.

 

NeoOffice

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If you need a good solid full-featured Office suite for the Mac and don’t wish to fork out for Microsoft Mac Office, NeoOffice is your friend. It’s based on OpenOffice, but ported specifically to integrate better with Mac OS X. It can edit all your Word, Excel or PowerPoint files.

Young Engineers Given the Proper Equipment

See video below for why you should be suspicious when your kid starts spending a little bit too much time on a science project.

I don’t think I ever built anything more significant than a boat made out of styrofoam, a small electric motor and the servos from a remote control car I could never quite get to work after I took it apart. Well done to these young Norwegian geeks. 😉

Joost TV Launches With 250+ Channels

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Forget Multichoice and Telkom Media, Joost has gone into public beta. You can now watch more than 250+ channels (and 15,000+ shows) without paying a TV license.

I’ve been using Joost since early this year and believe it’s fantastic. Fullscreen, TV quality, on-demand television with very little buffering time. It’s without a doubt what television is to be in the future.

Although few of the mainstream channels are available, the bouquet is massive, ranging from dedicated music & entertainment channels to documentaries and news. They don’t have CNN but do have Reuters.

Although you now won’t need a TV license, the drawback is that Joost does chow bandwidth. Joost was founded by Niklas Zenstr??m and Janus Friis, of Skype fame.

They implemented Skype’s Peer-to-peer technology, so not only will you be downloading data, you’ll also be uploading data to others who are watching the same program as you.

This means they don’t need massive server infrastructure to deliver 15000+ programs to their 1 million pre-beta registered users.

It also means, in South Africa and countries where we pay for usage, that Joost TV will be pretty darn expensive to watch. And considering that Telkom is now starting to play in the TV space, as well as holding a monopoly over data communications, this is unlikely to change anytime soon.