Friday, June 23, 2006

Neverlate 7-day Alarm Clock

Consider this scenario when you just can't keep your eyes open and you have an important presentation in about 60 minutes, just enough to get about 45 minutes of shut eye. You pick up your compact sexy alarm clock and you go 3 clicks to the alarm menu, one click and a hold, wait 2 seconds, 2 clicks to minutes ..... and wondering if you set things correctly... was it AM or PM and then weelll zzzz.

I have owned 3 alarm clocks before this one (I lost one and one I intentionally left and tried to forget with my old apartment).

So, with "Neverlate" lets see -- I want to sleep for say .. 37 minutes. Well press the "nap" button and rotate a knob to set it to 37 and sleep thats it.

Or to set an alarm for say Tuesday, rotate the dial to "Tu" and another dial to set the time, back to run and you are done. The faster you move (clockwise or anti-clockwise) the dial the bigger the jumps and smaller jumps if you move it slowly.

The use of seperate buttons for most commonly used functions instead of one compact "do all" may seem redundant but is something that is intentional. A dial instead of a button to set the alarm for different days and another dial to set minutes and hours just cuts through the "bullshit" of clicking through each option inorder, bypassing it and then going the whole cycle again and coming back. Almost all functions for this clock are unconventionally (compared to most alarm clocks) simple and "common sensical".

Apart from the sound quality which is reasonably good, the radio does leave some things to be desired - a line in, a line out and maybe a digital tuner.Otherwise A fine clock radio that you may actually use. Even though, I got mine for free from ThinkGeek in exchange for the geek points I had accumulated, I think its worth the 29 bucks. It makes the available features "available" in a hurry.

Aug 23 2006: Check out this review at the Rainy Day Magazine

Available from
- $34.99

Mfgr's Site
American Innovative

Sunday, June 18, 2006

DIY 1: A Simple DC Motor

What you need:
I used the following.
1 Battery AAA some Magnet wire
2 Wires Some tape
3 Magnets from my Curiously strong magnet set.

How to do it:Well this is the first installment of the DIY series. This one was borrowed from: Make and Gonzo Gizmos (Scitoys). There are a couple of good sites to look up for projects to do yourself. A few that I know of:
MakeSciToys (Maker of Gonzo Gizmos)
Hacked Gadgets
Hack a Day

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Penrith Survival Tin

A survival kit usually contains the absolute bare essentials that one (usually a soldier) would need if he/she reaches a point where to keep alive he/she only has nature in its rawest natural form to provide for the "bare necessities of life". Most of the good kits are put together by experts (usually the department of defense of the respective country) for the forces (Army, Navy or the Air Force). Since these kits are usually meant for soldiers and have to be mass produced while keeping the cost low, one finds a delicate balance between cost, essentials and quality. Stuff put in these boxes has to have a low cost but at the same has to be dependable at the time of need.

Well that was the laymans version of the background for a survival kit. But, today one finds survival kits for camping, travel even weekend survival kits for fun. I stumbled upon a survival kit when I decided to go on a long solo hike and started pondering over the "must haves" in case of an emergency. I decided to come up with my own list of essentials based on the best of all the the good kits out there.. well in theory that was the plan. Well I didn't go for the solo hike but ended up with the Penrith Survival Tin. I compared the contents of 5 kits - Combat Survival kit, Military survival kit, The Ultimate Survival kit (UK), the Ultimate Survival kit (USAF) and the Penrith Survival tin. The first four are from BCB International.

I also looked up Doug Ritter's Pocket Survival Pak from "Equipped To Survive" which has recieved a lot of acclaim as being the Ultimate Survival kit. Maybe it is, maybe not I am not sure. But, it failed to impress me as a whole (maybe without good reason). It does have some items which are worth having especially the Spark lite firestarter and the signal mirror is of really good quality. Overall the reason I chose the Penrith survival tin was that it had most of the items of the other survival tins, with smallest size, decent quality and an unbeatable price. And ofcource there is always the possibility of replacing or adding stuff as an improvement. One should keep in mind though, that it is very tightly packed and has very little space for additions (See above). One crucial thing that it lacks is a whistle, which is present in almost all kits that I have seen so far. Second, I will most definitely be replacing the cotton tinder with "tinder card" or just cut and add a few pieces to it. Replace the water tablets with Katadyn Micropur M1 tablets. Add an analgesic/painkiller, some antibiotic and some triple antibiotic cream. One thing that was present in this tin in the earlier versions but seems to have been replaced with a fishing line is a braided nylon line which is a "semi" pity (actually both would have been good).

One other thing that according to me is a "bare essential" for any camping trip not usually a part of the survival kit is an insect repellent. Don't leave home without one or pray to "whomever you pray to" -- not to get caught into a survival situation with mosquitos. To suggest a good insect repellent which comes in a small package, originally designed for the military, with a name you can trust is -- 3M's Ultrathon - its good. People may differ with me as this being a bare essential for survival, but if you get your blood sucked every now and then without respite, believe me you would rather want to kill yourself than survive.

Do lookup Don Rearic's review of the Penrith Tin which is more comprehensive. Nice to know some one out there holds a similar view.

Also one needs to mention that this kit was modeled over the survival book by John "Lofty" Wiseman which by itself is a great buy. Finally to restate this statement that you may read whenever you read reviews of survival kits -- "This may just save your life".

Available from
T.A.D. Gear Inc. - $29.95

Mfg's Site
Penrith Survival Equipment - £19.00

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Google Earth for Linux

I always held a view that Linux and Google were always hand in hand. So, imagine my disappointment when a Google Earth is released for Windows "by Google" before releasing a version for Linux. My concerns were alleviated when I learnt that Google Earth was formerly called Earth Viewer a product of Keyhole Inc. Keyhole was acquired by Google some years back. Phew and that explained why there was a google product which was released on Windows platform before being released on Linux. After learning this, the only question that was left unanswered (till now) was - When? When was Google Labs coming out with a Google Earth for Linux. Well ... its here. Google officially announced day before yesterday a version 4 of Google earth and this version is supposed to run on Linux and Mac OS X.


Monday, June 12, 2006

FireFox Mascot - Alexandra Ansgar

Wolf Howl ... .

Update: June 16, 2006
This was a hoax.Common sense got pushed aside on this one. Bad bad gadgetizer :-). - Dev
Firefox Mascot Hoax - Alexandra Ansgar


Saturday, June 10, 2006

Utili-Key 6-in-1 Tool

Frankly speaking, I bought this tool because it looked cute, and was skeptical if it would actually come in use. I was wrong, this small little thing has come to rescue on many occasions. Especially the #1 Phillips Screwdriver and the (straight & serrated)knife. Actually, I think I found a 7th use for it - I used it as a wire cutter just yesterday to cut a magnet wire. As, it locks onto one's keychain, it is something you can always rely on being present whenever you need it where ever you are. The space requirement is equal to just another key on your keychain. With a little improvisation one can use it beyond its 6 functions at times. The original 6 functions are:

  • #1 Phillips Screwdriver
  • #1 Flat Screwdriver
  • One very small supposed to be screwdriver
  • Straight blade Knife
  • Serrated blade Knife
  • Bottle Opener

Avaliable from
IWOOT - £9.95
- $9.99

Mfg's Site:

☢ NitePalm GlowRing

Personally I don't know why I find these so attractive -- their usefulness or their sheer geek value. These GlowRing Safety Markers contain actual radioactive ☢ material Tritium. Tritium has a half life of 12 years. As markers they serve their purpose extremely well. They will glow continously without batteries or an external power source for more than 10 years. Shown above are images at different lighting conditions. I have attached mine to my Nitepalm Field Lamp so that I can find it whenever there is a power outage. I have no complaints. Moreover the thought that these contain radioactive material makes them more valuable -- In the Geek sense I mean. Currently their sale in the US is illegal, so I got mine from the UK where they are bestsellers. Imogometrics gives it a 5 out of 5 Highly Recommended - A Unique Product !. I have a greenish yellow one, but one can choose from 3 colours - Yellow, Red and blue.
Avaliable from
FireBox - £9.95
IWOOT - £9.95
Global Military Supplies - £7.99

Mfg's Site:

Swedish FireSteel

A magnesium alloy which is a must for any survival pack. These are typically called magnesium Firestarters. The particular firestarter that I am talking about is the one made by Light My Fire. They have 2 models - an army model and a cadet model. Any decent survival kit be it Military Survival Kit, Combat Survival Kit, Penrith Survival tin, etc has some variation of a magnesium based Firestarter (the first 2 kits are from BCB International). These look similar to the one shown below (from the Penrith Survival Tin).

I will use the term Firesteel exclusively for the one sold by Light My Fire. FireSteel is an alloy of Seven metals and produces sparks of 3000°C. The army model is supposed to last for more than 12,000 strikes which is enough to last a lifetime. Cotton burns like magic with firesteel (try cotton first time). My first attempts to start a flame using Paper shreds and even Mayadust resulted in my being disapointed in FireSteel as a fire starter. Also, I almost shaved of half of my Firesteel (shown in the pic top right) in my attempts. There was something wrong with the pack of mayadust that I got. I guess it was too old and the pine resin dried off. One day I wanted to try out a knife and shaved of some fine shreds of the MayaSticks and just thought to give FireSteel another try and voila I had a glorious fire. I tried this out a couple of times more just to be sure this was a reliable way to start a fire, if I was actually caught in a survival situation... yes, it worked everytime. I still can't light the MayaDust that I bought. Shown below is the faulty MayaDust I own. To clarify I recieved my MayaDust and MayaSticks from and not Next to it are MayaSticks, these are good.

The MayaSticks burn for a long time and produce a really hot flame. And if you have the patience and the guts you can use a knife to produce small fresh shavings from it to start a fire using FireSteel (impressive isn't it?). Well for some smart Alec's out there who may ask why not just use a match or a lighter to start a flame... bloody damn right why not. Well the reasons why one has a magnesium alloy based FireStarter in almost all survival packs that I have seen so far are 1) Matches can get wet and are very limited in number 2) Lighter has limited fuel 3) Both matches and a lighter can easily stop working in extreme situations. FireSteel on the other hand is a lifetime supply of sparks and can produce sparks even when wet and well one has to really think of a way "to actually" make a rod of metal alloy malfunction. lastly but not the least it has a high geek value. See video of me lighting cotton tinder with FireSteel below.

Update 26th June 2006: See Another video of me starting a fire using Mayastick shavings.
Google Video
You-tube Video

Available from
- $15.99
IWOOT - £12.95
Mfg's Site
Light My Fire USA

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

TurboFlame Lighter GX7

There are plenty of butane lighters out there. Wanted to have one of these Jet flame lighters. Well this one was pretty inexpensive and caught my attention.I bought mine directly form the TurboLighters site.
Price: £5.95

Selaginella Lepidophylla (Dinosaur Plant)

Also called the resurrection plant.This plant is capable of surviving 50 yrs without water. When there is no water it just dries up into a ball. Give it water and this small brown ball opens up into a green plant within 1 to 2 hrs.
Available From