Sunday, 24 January 2010

My Dream Device

This started out as a wave discussion with a friend. Initially I was thinking about a NetBook/tablet type of device, but as I made my wish-list I realised that it had to be a phone.


  • ARM not sure which one. ARM is a far more secure instruction set than x86. My understanding is that an ARM instruction can not jump into the middle of any other instruction so a major source of vulnerabilities are eliminated.


  • WiFi 11n Settle for 11g. Nothing surprising here.
  • 3G. This will need to be 4G shortly - WiMAX or LTE?


  • If it were a NetBook then I'd like Ubuntu. But for a Phone it has to be Android or possibly ChromeOS in the future.
  • Open.


  • Flash.
  • Micro SD


  • GPS (A-GPS)
  • Compass


For me, a Netbook needs an 11" to 12" screen. Current 9"-10" devices are just a little too small for lot's of use. But for a phone, 11"-12" is too big.

I have an iPod Touch. It is great but web browsing is barely useable. So the screen needs to be bigger. By way of comparison, I also have a Casio FX-82-like calculator. It is 5/8" (16mm) thick, 3 3/8" (85mm) wide and about 6 1/4" long (155mm). It easily fits in a pocket and not too big to be a phone.

So, a bit bigger wider and a bit thicker than a scientific calculator.

  • Something that will fit in a pocket.
  • Let's say two 4"-ish x 7"-ish screens hinged along their long sides to form a book-like device.
  • How about the Golden Ratio (about 1.618). The screen could be 3.7"x6" (7" diagonal). The two screens together would be 6"x7.4" or 9.5" - that's a NetBook size, but it would fit in your pocket.
  • I think the combined ePaper/LCD screen of Pixel Qi would do nicely.
  • Video should run on either 1 or both screens.
  • Page reading in portrait mode - no window borders.
  • Full HD resolution when combined


  • Thin <3/4" (19mm)
  • Thin margin around the screens - say 1/8" (3mm).


  • 2 Touch screens with On-screen keyboard. One screen could be the main screen and the other working as touchscreen keyboard. The keyboard could enter ePaper mode to save power and the other screen would only need color LCD when watching videos or viewing/taking pictures.


  • Mic and Ear speaker on the outside of the case.
  • There would need to be a spot or touch surface to answer a call.
  • To make call you would open the device and select or dial the number. Once dialed the lid can be closed and it works like a phone for there on.


  • Camera 3-5MP - A book-like design would make this a little impractical, but one above a screen and another on the outside would be possible.
  • Stereo Speakers
  • 8 Hr battery life when uses as a NetBook - both screens on etc.
  • 7 days closed.
  • Mic/Headphone jack - like the iPhone
  • Bluetooth (for external keyboard/display while on my desk - why not use it at work and home as well while it is charging?)
  • Removable battery
  • Vibrate for errors, tactile feedback, alarms.
  • Induction charging mat
  • Solar panel to lengthen battery life a little bit - it would make for a nice external surface as well.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Could we be Self-Sufficient in Electricity?


It is Summer in Australia so our photovoltaic panels should be producing near peak capacity. In fact, according to our last bill, we used 6.2 kWh per day and generated 6.4 kWh per day over a 93 day period (September 15 2009 to December 17 2009). So we are sort-of in the black this quarter.

Unfortunately, we still have to pay a service charge of 48c per day + GST. We need the grid to supply electricity when the sun doesn't shine and to provide a sink for our excess electricity during the day when it does.

We are cheating a bit: we don't have air-conditioning; we use Natural Gas for stove-top cooking and hot water heating; and we have a reasonably efficient wood heater for winter.

Our oven is electric. Other than that, we run a large fridge and freezer, water pump, ADSL router, 4 laptops, printer, microwave, 8kg front-loader, dishwasher, microwave oven, small TV, toaster, 2 garage door openers, range-hood, smoke detectors, alarm system and the usual interior and exterior lights. We have other appliances but they are used rarely.

Notably, we don't run a VCR, DVD player, stereo or electric kettle.

On the other hand, our house doesn't really need air-conditioning by design. We have double glazing, reasonable wall and ceiling insulation and full-brick downstairs sitting on a thick concrete slab that is in contact with the ground (ie. we don't have poly-styrene blocks under our slab).

Our gas bill varies seasonally. In summer we consume about 18MJ per day and in winter this roughly doubles. Most of our gas consumption is used to heat water for bathing. Our gas costs us $27 + GST for October-December but the service charge was $44 + GST!

It is unlikely that we will generate enough electricity to make-up for what we use, but we should come close.