26 May 2007

OQO 02 - first impressions

I ordered an OQO 02 (world's smallest Vista computer) in March after trying a preproduction model at OQO's headquarters in San Francisco (thanks to JH for setting that up). Yesterday, the much in demand handheld, a "Best / Vista Ultimate / Verizon" arrived straight from the factory in Singapore.

Day one impressions

The design of the OQO, from the box it comes in, to the device itself, is cool, modern, and black. I could see Darth Vader putting one on his belt clip.

The OS is straight Microsoft (Vista, with XP also an option), but with small yet significant OQO touches. For one, the computer comes with Firefox. Very nice choice. The OQO helper apps - for screen brightness, wireless, CPU/fan performance, are also well done - both stylish and functional. The latter app is a particular good example. Fan speed vs CPU speed is always a tough tradeoff - the faster the CPU runs, the snappier the performance. But this means the fan has to work harder (and louder) to keep the machine cool. The OQO's app features a slider with two extremes, cooler and quieter. With these two words, both ends of the spectrum sound good - this is a small a bit of design I really appreciate.

Another example of a careful design is the keyboard. On most ultra-portable computers, companies either skip the keyboard (most UMPC have none), or they put on a keyboard that feels like as much of an afterthought as rear seats on a Porsche.

The OQO has a thumb keyboard, and it may be the best of its kind I've ever used. It feels as good as a Blackberry; each key provides tactile feedback and has just enough of separation from its neighbors, that I typed this entire post on it without cramping up or getting frustrated. What's more, the OQO's ambient light sensor turns on the keyboard's bright backlight when you're clicking away in the dark, making it easy to type in situations which would otherwise be challenging (non-backlit thumb keyboards - why does any company think these are good ideas?).

Day one with the OQO 02? A definite success. More on this tiny computer at the one week mark.

21 May 2007

An autofocus webcam for PCs

When Apple introduced the iSight, I was impressed by its nice design, but moreso by its ability to autofocus. PC webcams of the era were still primitive manual-focus numbers that had not evolved far beyond the first black and white eyeball shaped Quickcams.

I figured some Taiwanese company would make a PC clone of the iSight and I'd finally have a modern webcam.

Well, years went by, and while PC webcams added some pretty silly features (like the ability to put fake sunglasses on your face), none of them did autofocus.

Until recently. In April, 2007, Creative introduced the LiveCam Optia AF. Here's the Creative LiveCam Optia AF product page and also an article on the Optia AF at i4u. It's a $130 (list) two megapixel (2MP) camera with 1600x1200 resolution. And it does autofocus.

EverythingUSB adds that the camera has a 63-degree field of view (due to USB 2.0 limits) can only send uncompressed video at 960x720 at 24fps.

I haven't tried it yet. If you have one, please let me know whether it lives up to the hype.

08 May 2007

CPR: Everything we know is wrong?

Newsweek: Docs Change the Way They Think About Death

The best treatment for a heart attack might be to slowly reintroduce oxygen, as the heart cells remain alive for an hour after being cut off from oxygen, but immediately die when oxygen is reintroduced suddenly. One study showed an 80% survival rate with the gradual reintroduction of oxygen, compared to only 17% under normal procedures (jolt the heart with paddles and get it beating fast).

Excerpts:

Because once the cells have been without oxygen for more than five minutes, they die when their oxygen supply is resumed. It was that "astounding" discovery, Becker says, that led him to his post as the director of Penn's Center for Resuscitation Science, a newly created research institute operating on one of medicine's newest frontiers: treating the dead.

* * *

"It looks to us," says Becker, "as if the cellular surveillance mechanism cannot tell the difference between a cancer cell and a cell being reperfused with oxygen. Something throws the switch that makes the cell die."