It’s Alive!

I thought up a project where I could turn the Powerbook 5300c that Jeb gave me for Christmas a few years ago into a digital picture frame. The first problem was the Powerbook didn’t actually work. As you will recall, I found out that if I replaced the power tip on the AC adapter that I could get it to work. But there was no modem and the splice came undone, so I lost interest.

However, the 5300c has a 10-inch active matrix screen that supports thousands of colors and I have nothing to lose. So last night I took it completely apart down to the motherboard and various components. So today I rebuilt the splice (using butt connectors) reattached most of the pieces I thought it would need (not the IR port, floppy drive, video card, battery, battery power supply). That didn’t work. So I reconnected the power supply and it started up!

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Smart Chick

Seeing the makezine site reminded me of the newest iPod battery pack I added to the page. It was built by an artist/electronics geek who got a Masters at MIT and lives in New York City. People have been trying to come up with a good USB charger for the iPod for a while. A really primitive, but simple, setup uses a 9-volt battery and a voltage regulator to give the constant 5 volts required by USB devices. The problem is anything above 5 volts is wasted as heat, the thing stops working when the battery drops below 7 volts, and if you leave the battery connected it will charge all the way down even if it isn’t charging an iPod.

I’ve always thought it was sad, but not surprising, that all of the people doing these battery packs were guys. Apparently a woman’s touch was needed. Her pack uses a computer chip and an inductor to amplify the steadily declining voltage supplied by two AA batteries to exactly 5 volts with very little waste. It will supposedly provide a full charge to a video iPod giving an additional 2-3 hours of video so you can watch a long movie away from a computer or wall outlet. It doesn’t provide the oomph of my 8 AA Band Aids charger, but if you really wanted more charges you could just bring extra pairs of AA batteries. So that was impressive in itself.

But then she took it all to the next level, designing a custom circuit board so the whole thing could fit in an Altoids gum tin, thoroughly documenting the entire design and build process, and selling kits with all the needed parts as an electronics project for $19.50. I was so impressed I almost bought one even though I can’t solder worth a flip and my iPod doesn’t charge via USB.


I was checking out my web site statistics today. Lately I’ve been averaging a little less than 300 hits a day and it drops to about 200 on the weekends. So I was surprised to see I was up to 217 already this afternoon and even more surprised to see 35 hits in the last hour. Usually 25 is the highest I get and at this time of day it is usually around 12. I knew something had happened so I checked to see where the referrals were coming from. They were all from a site called Make: or Makezine. It seems to be mostly electronics-related do-it-yourself projects. Once I went to the referring page, I scrolled way down and found the entry linking to my page. It is titled Every freaking way to charge an iPod. The description is very short “Ted has a round up of just about all the ways of charging an iPod and/or making a DIY battery pack,” with a link to my battery pack page and a picture of my Band Aids battery pack.

It’s nice to be appreciated, but like the time someone posted the page on I am sure the increase will be short-lived. Originally posted at 3 AM, it is already the last post on the home page, with obscurity soon to follow. Still, by the end of the day the counter was up to about 780 with a peak per hour of 96, the biggest traffic day ever. Similar to the Digg experience, it resulted in no ad clicks.

iPod Timeline

In one of the first virtual books that iLounge posted, they had a timeline of all the dates where different iPods were introduced. But then they didn’t update it. So I took what they had, plus what I found elsewhere and updated it, current up to the satanic-colored 5G U2 edition iPod introduced Tuesday. I’m trying to analyze the past history to guess when Apple will come out with a new iPod since I will be in the market soon. Looks like I need to wait until September or October.

The price premium for owning an iPod vs. rival MP3 players nearly disappeared in 2006. When I bought the $279 20 GB Archos, all Apple had was a 5 GB 1st generation iPod which was $399 and it only worked with Macs. Two months after I got the Archos, Apple introduced the 10 GB iPod for $499. Still, I had twice the capacity (but none of the cool) for about half the price.

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Netflix Again

With the end of the regular TV season, I figured it was time to try Netflix out again. They tried to raise the price from $20 a month, but competition from Walmart and Blockbuster forced them to actually lower the price to $18. Still, I decided to go for the $15 per month plan that gives you only two movies at a time. That should still allow me to see three movies a week which is about the most I was ever able to watch the last time I joined.

I really do like Netflix. I enjoyed going through recommendations and finding some obscure movies and movies that I would probably never pay to rent, but would still like to see. Also, I decided to rent the first disc of Season 1 of 24 to see if I like the show and would like to buy the whole season. I came very close to buying the Season 1 DVD today, but then decided it was too big a risk for a show I had never watched and didn’t know if I would even like.

Anyway, my first two movies should arrive Tuesday.

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