I was perusing a site that catalogs MacGyverisms
the other day (don't ask), and it occurred to me that technology turns us all into MacGyver at some time, sans the modified mullet, of course. Here are some favorite TechGyverisms from me and my colleagues:
The wooden stylus: I am always losing the stylus to my Treo 600. Last time it happened, I was having lunch at the bar. Without thinking, I grabbed the frilly little toothpick that was holding together my poorly engineered sandwich. Not only did it work, it worked better than the real thing. Add bonus points for the fact that it looks jaunty sitting in the stylus slot of the Treo 600. And you can get 10,000 of them for under 20 bucks, which would allow me to lose 1 per day for 27 years.
Easy LCD monitor hanger: LCD monitors look great and save even more space when hung on a wall. But the bracket you'll need for hanging is a pricey extra-cost option. My cheap friend Rick got around that by taking a 10-inch piece of electrical wire, crimping an eyelet on each end and screwing those to the back of the monitor where the overpriced bracket would otherwise attach. Take off the table stand and fly the thing from a picture hook. Nice.
S-VHS tapes for the cheapskate: S-VHS decks are still useful, especially for archiving good-quality recordings off-air. Finding an S-VHS tape, however, is getting tougher. But a video producer friend of mine found that just drilling a small hole in the bottom of a regular VHS tape allows it to become an S-VHS tape, for less money and no hassle. Apparently the hole tells the deck it has an S-VHS cassette in it, so the deck will go into high-res mode. He says the tape inside has been the same for years, and only the price was different. Flip an S-VHS tape over, and you'll see the hole he's talking about. He uses a pointy soldering iron to make the hole so that no particles fall inside the tape.
Replacement iPod batteries: One of the few things we don't like about iPods is the battery you can't replace. After about 18 months, plan to send your iPod back to Apple wrapped in a $100 bill--that's about the time you'll need a new battery, because the old one will have crapped out. If that rankles you like it does me, check out ipodbattery.com. Not only does it have replacement iPod batteries for every iPod made, the prices are nice and the photo tutorials on taking your iPod apart are absolutely exemplary. If assembling a piece of IKEA furniture takes you all day (and it still leans funny when you're done), then this project isn't for you. Otherwise, you'll save money and get the satisfaction of not being treated like a child.
Sony still doesn't get it
Sony announced its answer to the 20GB iPod last week, the Sony NW-HD1. If that's Sony's answer, it's asking the wrong question. Again. I was no fan of its recently announced Connect music service because it pushes you toward the feckless ATRAC3 format.
But even worse was the marketing spin Sony put on this new 20GB player. One of its main "benefits" is that it can hold 13,000 songs compared to just 10,000 on a same-size 20GB iPod. What was buried in the fine print is that in order to fit that many songs, you'd have to encode music as ATRAC3 files at 48Kbps--a bit rate that would make the new Cure record sound like an old Wilson Pickett 45. Apple busted them on this pretty quickly.
Where's the guy who invented the Walkman; can we get him back from retirement?
He still works there?
Where are these products?
These days, it's not often you pine for a Wi-Fi product that someone isn't already making. But am I the only person who would plunk down money for the following?
Wi-Fi speakers: I'm throwing a party in a few weeks and need sound in the backyard. Today's wireless speakers are fine except for lousy sound and lots of interference. A portable, self-powered, amplified speaker that gets its signal via Wi-Fi would work brilliantly, and I have to believe any electrical engineering candidate in college could design a good one. What am I missing?
Wi-Fi digital camera: I love snapping photos with my Treo and sending them off wirelessly. But the image quality is, of course, similar to that of the little comics that come folded in a piece of Bazooka gum. If my Canon SD-10 had built-in Wi-Fi, I could bounce its 4-megapixel photos around and really have something good. Finding a hot spot is a no-brainer.
Last year, Ricoh and Sanyo showed prototypes of Wi-Fi digital cameras, but they died on the way to market. What gives? Am I the only one?