Steam-powered iPhone charger

180px-Stephenson's_Rocket Despite my love of the latest gadgets, I do have a soft spot for old mechanical contraptions such as typewriters, trams, cars and, of course, steam engines. So I am grateful to Engadget for news of the latest development in USB-charging power. An enterprising mechanic has harnessed a small steam engine to a generator in order to produce enough power to charge and run any device that can take a USB feed--including our beloved iPhone. Now this is much more fun than simply plugging the thing into the wall socket. It makes a lovely noise and you really get all the visual and audible clues that your device is being charged.


As Engadget says, this could be yet another example steampunk. There has been a recent revival in the construction of fantasy machines which look like Victorian science fiction but often contain modern equipment. An example would be a Mac Mini hidden inside a fantastic re-creation of Charles Babbage's difference engine. 

I rather fancy a replica of Stephenson's Rocket in my garage, powered up to provide light and heat. What a wonderful concept! Come to think of it, that steam USB charger isn't as daft as it sounds. All you need is a drop of paraffin and you have enough power to charge a phone. When all else fails, this could be the answer.

Tweet anyone?

I may be an ancient Macfanboy but I'm not backward in adopting new technology. Not for me the ancient G4 and a copy of Apple Works. Give me the latest OS and the rammiest computer money can buy. I just like new things. But I have to say that I feel deprived because I cannot get used to Twitter. Everyone, especially the podcasters, rave about Twitter. Tour_1


Tweeting is the new publishing and anyone who doesn't tweet every minute of the day is somehow a Luddite. Well I've tweeted and twotterd and can't see the point of it. During the over-hyped mini riots of last week's G20 meeting in the City, I thought I'd monitor events on Twitter. Well, I have to say most of the comments were illiterate and difficult to read ("BG @twitbox:  pleze relay video of assault on innocient rioter") and I couldn't really see the point of it. I've tried, I really have, 'onest officer. 

I twittered MacOldie but was profoundly embarrassed to record I was eating a bacon sandwich in Fouberts' caff. Who on earth, except my digestive system, is interested in this? Maybe I am too old/out of step/slow of learning but I do wonder sometimes.

Internet Use ‘Good for the Brain’

Using the internet can counteract the age-related physiological changes that cause the brain to slow down, according to a report from the University of California. It is already accepted that tasks such as crossword puzzles stimulate and exercise the brain and keep the effects of ageing at bay. 


I have thought for a long time that computer use, not necessarily internet surfing, can have the same beneficial effects. It now seems that there is a glimmer of proof in the new report. According to the lead researcher, Professor Gary Small, the results indicating that emerging computerised technologies may have physiological effects and potential benefits for middle-aged and older adults.

It is all part of keeping an active mind and I find it sad that many older people are completely opposed to computer use and pour scorn on anyone who wants to send them an email. For older people, computer use and access to the internet provides a new opportunity to learn and make new friends. At a very basic level, the internet is a means of reducing purchase costs of many every-day items and major purchases.

Learning and using a foreign language is also good for the brain, as I know from my own experience, and retirement is an ideal opportunity to start a new language.


Bluetooth Headsets

Am I alone in wondering about the effectiveness of Bluetooth headsets? I've been trying out the iPhone Bluetooth headset and love the design and the nifty way of charging via the combined iPhone/headset adaptor cable. It works well, although I have experienced some of the problems I've noticed with previous in-ear bluetooth devices. Callers often claim they cannot hear you properly. You do have to shout a bit. I have also never liked the multi-function single button--one press for this, two quick presses for that. I'm often left wondering just what is happening and what I've initiated.

I have tried the Apple device over several days but am not convinced that it is for me. I feel a bit nerdy wearing it in my ear and, frankly, it isn't all that secure. I can imagine it falling out and getting lost. I actually prefer the standard wired headset/microphone which comes with the iPhone. At least I can listen to music or a podcast and select a call easily. And callers are not always complaining. I have now improved on this by the purchase of the Sennheiser iPhone earphones. They are very comfortable, the sound is great and the microphone (with activation button) is very conveniently placed on the cable. Also, I have the feeling that it is less nerdy to appear to be listening to an iPod than to be ever ready for a phone call by wearing a bluetooth device.

Mac User Groups

This evening I'm paying my first visit to the London Mac User Group (LMUG) and it turns out to be a friendly and informative affair at The Hobgoblin pub in Balcombe Street NW1. For anyone new to the Mac world, a MUG is an ideal introduction and a way of getting to know some fellow users. Meetings usually take place every month and the format includes a presentation by an expert and a very useful question-and-answer session. Similar MUG groups operate throughout the country. You can find a complete list of local groups at Mac Users UK.