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Friday, May 2, 2008

Stay Plugged In While Traveling

From Wired How-To Wiki

Wall socket and plug in Australia. Photo: Alikai via Flickr
Wall socket and plug in Australia. Photo: Alikai via Flickr

All electricity is not created equal. In fact, the world is full of varying voltages and Hertz levels that make traveling with electronic devices somewhat complicated.

This is perhaps the most complex problem gadget geeks headed abroad will face -- sorting out all the different requirements for one's gear. Do you just need a wall adapter? An adapter and a voltage converter? And what about a surge protector?

Fear not -- this guide should answer those questions.

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Contents

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What's the Deal with Electricity?

Voltage

Worldwide voltages range from around 110 to 240. Plug a device expecting 110 into a wall outlet delivery 240 and you can easily end up with a melted hunk of plastic and burned out circuits.

Fortunately, newer electronics are often able to handle a wide range of voltages. You know those tiny print labels on all your battery chargers that you've always ignored? Time to pull them out and have a closer look.

The text you're interested in is the voltage rating, which, if you're lucky, says "100V - 240V." If yours says just 110V or just 240V, you're going to need a voltage converter. When it comes to voltage converters, the best option is to buy one that covers the whole range. Voltage converters can be found at just about any online retailer which sells electronics.

Also bear in mind (if you happen to be a war correspondent) that Afghanistan and few other countries sometimes have voltages up to 280V, so you may want a converter that can handle more than 240V.

Hertz

If voltage wasn't enough to worry about, the world's electricity supplies also deliver varying degrees of Hertz. Generally speaking, the options range between 50-60Hz.

So again, pull out those chargers and check to see how many Hz they can handle. Now, if you need to, you can buy a voltage adapter that spans 100V-240V and 50Hz-60Hz.

Guide to World Electrical Systems

How do you know what you're going to encounter at your destination? Just look it up in this indispensable chart of electricity around the world. The table on that page lists every country and displays the voltage, Hertz and the type of wall adapter necessary.

Also, check out Wired's gallery of electrical conduits and plugs from around the world.


Plugging it In

The last and simplest concern for travelers totting high tech gear is a good set of travel plug adapters.

A plug adaptor is a relatively simple little gadget that will allow you to plug an appliance designed for one type of outlet into another type of outlet. Generally, you can buy plug adaptors in kits of five or six plugs.

If you take a look at one of the many guides to all the wall socket types in the world, you'll notice that there's over a dozen -- so how come adapter kits have fewer options? The answer is that you average travel adapter kit ignores the grounding wire.

While that's not necessarily a bad thing, it is important to remember that unless you spring for a grounded adapter, there will be no grounding, which creates some potential safety concerns. For most short terms uses, like recharging your laptop or camera battery, you can get by without the grounding. If you're planning a long term stay abroad, you should probably grab some grounding adapters.

Unfortunately it can be somewhat difficult to come by grounding adapters outside the area in question. Your best bet may be to buy one at an electronics shop when you get to your destination. It may also be much cheaper to do it that way.

Another thing to keep in mind if you're coming from the U.S.: not all type A outlets are the same. In the States, we've mainly switched over to polarized outlets, where one hole is slightly larger than the other to accommodate the slightly larger plug blade. (The larger plug blade is the neutral side of the current).

Unfortunately, not every country that uses type A outlets has switched to polarized wall outlets. That means that if you devices have a larger blade in one side you may still need an adapter to fit an older, non-enlarged, Type A wall unit.

Beware the AC/DC

There is one final concern when plugging things in abroad -- direct current (DC) outlets. Although DC is rare, it does exist and will most definitely fry your gear. If you're unsure if a particular outlet is DC, ask someone at your hotel or guesthouse. I've been to 23 countries on three continents and never encountered a DC outlet, but there are some still hanging around.


Watts and Surge Protectors

Travel surge protectors can be had from most of the same places that sell adapters. Sometimes you can even find surge protectors that come with adapters. A travel surge protector is essentially the same as your usual power strip, though it generally only offers one or two plugs to conserve on space and weight.

Most geek gadgets -- laptops, digital camera batteries and the like -- operate in the 75-200 watt range. To find out exactly how many watts your devices use, look on the power plug label, consult the manual or use this formula:

Volts(AC input) x Amps(amperage) = Watts (Wattage)

e.g.:

110V x .5 amps = 55 watt

When you're looking at at voltage converters, keep this number in mind since different converters can power different wattages.

Also bear in mind that heating appliances such as hair dryers (as well as irons, coffee makers and more) need a 1600-watt converter. Good to know if you're the type that has to maintain the well-coifed Flock of Seagulls hair 'do even when you're traveling.

Buying Tips

Although it's not a bad thing to buy some of this stuff ahead of time, it may, in some cases, be cheaper to find abroad -- especially if you're headed to Asia.

Also be aware that not all adapter/voltage/surge kits are created equal. I bought an rather expensive combo unit in the States that blew up in Paris. I bought another expensive one in Paris and it blew up in Nepal. Finally I bought a cheap, all-in-one unit for $2 on the street in Bangkok and it has lasted for four years now.

The world's largest portable TV... and a new advertising medium

The world's largest portable TV... and a new advertising medium

The world's largest portable TV... and a new advertising medium

May 1, 2008 Media sells its audience. Regardless of how the media assembles the audience, the profile, size and engagement of the audience is the value the media offers advertisers, which effectively means Big Moving Pictures’ fleet of rolling mobile LED screen displays constitutes a new advertising medium. The company is mounting massive (40 x 22 ft) HDTV LED displays on trucks so it can engage the audience at major outdoor events (such as air shows and auto racing) in a new way.

Keeping the audience informed and engaged at such noisy events has always been a problem, given the noise of an F-15 or Indy Car, but utilizing massive LED displays that can be clearly seen at a distance in daylight conditions makes it possible to continuously address outdoor audiences of 100,000+. MEGASCREENS will be built using the brightest Light-Emitting-Diode (LED) technology available. Essentially an evolution of the video display systems currently used in stadiums or rock concerts, MEGASCREENS are the biggest and most powerful LED-based display solution yet devised.

Big Moving Pictures Inc. (BMP), and Strongbase have announced the signing of a unique agreement to create the largest mobile LED screen displays ever produced. BMP will target air shows and auto races (NHRA and Indy) initially, but we can see big opportunities for developing the 'rolling television network' into a valuable niche advertising medium with high engagement, and large numbers of a high value audience.

BMP will transport its MEGASCREENS to the largest events in the United States and Canada, and there’s obviously application for the technology in every country. Weighing 66,000 pounds and hydraulically operated, the MEGASCREENS are trailer-mounted for maximum portability and rapid deployment into a given situation.

Typical time from arriving onsite to displaying video will be under one hour, done by a single technician or truck driver. Image area sizing will be 39.4'W x 22'H in a true 16:9 aspect ratio for direct usage of 720P HDTV signals. LED element pitch is 15mm, brightness range up to 10,000NITS. HD video transmission to the screens will be accomplished by laser-based, digital microwave or fiberoptic cabling systems.

"We are building a 'rolling television network'," said BMP President & CEO David Knight, "with everything that a television network normally has – cameras, graphics, performers, and supported by national advertisers – but using giant screens to reach large audiences instead of their home TV sets."

"There is simply nothing out there in the world of big screens even close to these – MEGASCREENS will be forty percent bigger and about 200 percent brighter than any current mobile outdoor screen," stated Knight, "plus they can withstand the rigors of the aviation and motorsports environments, including the ability to be situated next to runways, on oceanfront piers and even barges in the water, taking punishment from high winds and saltwater bombardment."

Knight explained "This is an extreme engineering challenge, which is why we elected to partner with the most successful maker of LED-based video systems in the world, Strongbase through their American arm, Strongbase USA."

BMP spent nearly eighteen months prototyping and test performances using a wide variety of vendors' outdoor LED display units and found that none of the well-entrenched products could meet BMP's specific technological, environmental and scalability needs. At the end of this search, BMP elected to work directly with the company that has been providing LEDs and related componentry to most of the display industry: Hong Kong Strongbase Investment Group through Strongbase USA, which handles North American sales, service and marketing for its parent.

Through its unique alliances with many of the most important air shows that feature the US Navy Blue Angels and US Air Force Thunderbirds jet teams, BMP will give millions of attendees unprecedented views inside cockpits and from the pilot's point of view as well as insights into who the pilots are through 90-second "Meet The Team" exclusives.

BMP's programming is supported by commercials for major brands that run during intervals in the action. The company will announce additional partnerships in the motorsports and music categories within the coming year.

The BMP/Strongbase-developed MEGASCREENS are the first mobile screens to provide a true HD display for crisp, ultra-bright viewing by hundreds of thousands of audience members at an outdoor event. Using the 720P standard for high definition supported by many broadcast networks such as ABC, Fox, and ESPN where the progressive-scan format offers better imaging for sports and with a projected 5-7 year life MEGASCREENS will be available to serve the needs of Big Moving Pictures and other users in the action sports, movie, music, product launch, and videogaming industries for a long time to come.

BMP is the first company to monetize advertising on outdoor television screens at large events on a national scale. Although superficially similar to the systems of production trucks and outdoor LED screens seen for years at baseball games, NFL, NASCAR and others, BMP applies a new, Silicon Valley-style angle that makes it possible for advertisers to conclusively reach their target consumers, and introduces the ad-based revenue model to large spectator events — this works thanks to BMP's total integration with the event itself — there is no competing 'signal' coming over the sound system or screens that could confuse or distract the audience — in every sense of the word, Big Moving Pictures becomes one with the show.

DISCLOSURE: Gizmag’s editor-at-large, Dave Weinstein, sits on the board of BMP.

7 (More!) Underground Wonders of the World: From Seed Vaults to Amazing Military Strongholds


seed vault 2

Regular readers will remember the incredible abandoned mines and sunken cities as well as the catacombs and crypts of two previous collections of underground wonders. This set, however, focuses mainly on amazing underground wonders of the recent past - many of which are still in operation. From seed vault to military hideouts and diamond mines to nuclear waste dumps, here are seven more underground wonders of the world. Know of others that haven’t made the list yet? Be sure to leave more information in a comment below!

seed vault 1

Underground Seed Storage Vault: Located on a remote island only a few hundred miles from the North Poll, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault was constructed as insurance against the loss of genetically diverse crops around the globe While other such collections exist this is by far the most comprehensive and secure such endeavor to date and is located in a more safe region of the world than many similar efforts. The vault currently contains around 1.5 million seed samples and has a capacity of three times that amount. With the surrounding permafrost, the seismic stability of the region and a state-of-the-art security system this is one of the safest storage places ever constructed - and it looks awesome.

cave school

Primary School in a Cave: One thing that stands out right away about this strange Chinese school-in-a-cave is the lack of a roof on the main school structure - but really, why would you need one with the natural rock shelter provided? This naturally occurring cave provides a conveniently sizable space that accommodates not only the primary school proper but also playground spaces and other support structures. One can only imagine the permitting processes, objections and other complications that of a proposal for something similar in, say, the United States.

mormon vaults

Mormon Genealogical Vaults: The Mormons have some of the most sophisticated and thorough genealogical records in the world - 500 million pages of statistics dating back hundreds of years. So where does one horde such a rare treasure for safe-keeping? There is a nuke-proof underground bunker where the backups are kept carved into a granite cliffside outside of Salt Lake City. While the data is available to the public these original archival copies are kept completely secure. The folks of the Long Now project managed to get access but could only photograph the exterior. Inside, says their intrepid representative, long rows of microfilm storage resemble the endless stacks from The Matrix and a central water-catch zone (from the rock above) is reminiscent of Fremen water catches from Dune.

underground trenches

Secret WWI Military Tunnels (via EnvironmentalGraffiti): Imagine a military tunnel system so elaborate and extensive it housed not only 25,000 soldiers but also contained a church, dining halls, a 700-bed hospital and even a power station mere feet below the enemy. Recently excavated below the French town of Arras is an amazing work of wartime ingenuity - the largest underground project in British military history. By the time the British retook the town in 1916 it was virtually in ruins and still besieged by the Germans. 500 New Zealand sappers worked tirelessly to interconnect a series of existing but isolated underground mines into a 12-mile network of passages and spaces. Amazingly, after the war these spaces were put out of site and out of mind until they became a forgotten piece of history. Only recently did curiosity and clues lead to the rediscovery of this astonishing network and the opening of one small part to the public.

diamond mine

World’s Largest Diamond Mine: (via DeputyDog): The Mirny Diamond Mine in Siberia may be one of the scariest mines in the world (in addition to being the world’s largest open diamond mine). It is over a thousand feet deep and thousands of feet wide. It is so large it actually creates its own local weather patterns and the space above it has had to be designated a no-fly zone for helicopters (after this problem was identified the hard way). Gigantic trucks (like the small dot pointed to above) can haul over 200 tons of material out of the mine at a time, winding up and down the frightening spiral path that leads to the center of the mine.

subway art

Artistic Metro

Stockholm Art Metro Station: This amazingly decorated subway station takes the idea of public art to an pervasive maximum with over 100 artists displaying all kinds of work in an enclosed public space. And really, who could use a daily dose or art more than the bustling workers cramming onto public transportation day in and day out? This space has been dubbed the “world’s longest art gallery” with a vast range of strange spaces, designs and artworks including wall sculptures, murals and lighting effects that are as varied as the designers and artists who created them.

underground nuclear waste storage

Waste Isolation Pilot Plant: Carlsbad, New Mexico, has probably the last underground wonder in the world you would want to visit. This facility is the first of its kind: a licensed permanent storage space for radioactive waste. The site has been stable for hundreds of millions of years and the surrounding soil is calculated to fill cracks that could occur in the subterranean storage structures over time. Markers have been placed around the site to deter future human interference and potential accidental catastrophe. The bottom diagram above shows the contentious Yucca Mountain nuclear storage facility.

Want More? Check out These Other Amazing Wonders of the World:

Chismillionaire's obvious movie pick of the week - Iron Man


No need going into details on this. Everyone knows the background. Fantastic reviews on it so far. GO SEE IT!

Jin Saotome's Super-Cool Custom Superheroes



By Jenna Wortham Write to the Author
05.02.08 | 12:00 AM

He started hacking action figures as a tot. Now Jin Saotome sells custom-modded superheroes for hundreds and even thousands of dollars. "I would take apart my G.I. Joes, swap arms and paint them with my mom's nail polish," said the 30-year-old resident of California City, California.

With the help of his dad's metal shop, Saotome built and deconstructed popular figurines as a hobby. His first set of custom figures was purchased by a traveling jeweler, who bought an entire set of Star Wars figures for his son.

Above: Saotome makes a living cranking out custom creations like this Hulkbuster Iron Man. "What if Iron Man crash-landed in this summer's Hulk movie? He'd be wearing this armor," said Saotome. He crafted the custom piece using the beefed-up exoskeleton of Iron Man's nemesis, the Iron Monger. Saotome says this figure sold for $520 on eBay.


More figures here

GM partners up with Mascoma for non grain Biomass.

With the price of corn and other agricultural grains rising, the auto industry is wondering just how quickly ethanol and other alternative fuels will catch on with American customers. General Motors envisions one potential solution: Develop so-called cellulosic ethanol from non-grain sources.

GM on Thursday announced a strategic partnership with alt-fuel maker Mascoma to convert non-grain biomass into cellulosic ethanol. GM is taking an undisclosed stake in privately held Mascoma, which is based in Boston and was founded in 2005 by two Dartmouth engineering professors.

Cellulosic biomass refers to such naturally occurring sources as wood chips and switchgrass, which can be converted into biofuels such as ethanol.

GM President Fritz Henderson said the automaker continues to invest in cutting-edge alt-fuel technologies and firms because GM believes that "ethanol has the greatest near-term potential as a clean-burning, renewable fuel that can help reduce oil dependence."

What this means to you: As long as nobody gets the bright idea to make breakfast cereal from wood chips.

R2-D2 Projector in Action Video (Verdict: A Must Have)

We knew that there was a motorized, fully-articulated R2-D2 projector with built-in DVD, iPod dock, all kinds of digital media inputs, and Millennium Falcon remote control, but we never—EVER—imagined it would be so amazingly drooltastic as this video shows. Time to put on your LEGO-made Han Solo jacket or Leia bikini, and buy this thing—because after watching it in action, I don't care about the lack of Full HD support: this thing is absolutely I must have, caress, fondle, and lick all over material. Reaching nerdgasm, however, still costs $2,995. [Star Wars Shop via Star Wars Blog]

Van Damme Friday: Showing his May Colors

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