Potatoes ready to power notebooks

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By  Published  September 8, 2006

With all the brouhaha over the battery recalls by Dell and Apple, a story we drew attention to way back in July, how about users finding a safer more eco-friendly alternative — such as the potato?

As seen on website scienceprog.com, a boffin by the name of Thomas Pfeifer has found a way to run a simple alarm clock or LED diode using potatoes plus iron and copper metals.

He has demonstrated that a single potato battery generates 0.848V voltage and is able to give up to 130uA.

Now that all remains to be done is how to get enough of the potatoes to run your laptop.

Mark our words, potatoes will give Intel’s Duo Core chips a run for their money.

No to the net

The UK is seen as a mature IT market especially in all things internet-related.

However, a recent report from newswire Silicon.com revealed the nation is in fact experiencing a ‘digital divide’.

It cited figures from the government agency the Office of National Statistics (ONS) which showed that four in ten homes in the UK did not have web access. In fact 43% had no internet connectivity. In Scotland the figure was even higher — 52%.

The two main reason were typically British — ‘I don’t need it’ and ‘I don’t have the necessary skills’.

But what among those Brits who do use the net is the favourite reason? E-mailing was beaten into second place by searches for information on goods. Not surprising for a nation built on car boot sales and jumble sales, then.

China junk sunk

On the other side of the world, we find the Chinese are finally cracking down on junk e-mail, according to Reuters, which cites a report from the newspaper China Daily.

There are 111 million internet users, but officials claimed that 60% of e-mails received by users were spam — a phenomenal 50 billion junk messages in total.

Now comes news that a company in Shenzhen has been fined for sending bulk spam.

The fine, the equivalent of US$630, was the first case of its kind, China Daily reported.

There was no mention of what the e-mails contained, only that a ‘vast amount’ of e-mail had been sent since January.

Nevertheless it is the first shot across the bows of firms or shady individuals making money be illegally sending spam.

They could be fined by to 30,000 yuan (US$3,769) for their deeds.

A novel solution

Google’s empire-building continues, with the news that the search engine giant is to allow users the chance to download and print classic novels free of charge.

The books available under the Books Library Project will be tomes no longer under copyright. But when they are classics such as Dante’s Inferno or Aesop’s Fables, who’s going to complain at the quality?

Google is working in conjunction with a number of US universities including Harvard and Stanford, as well as the UK’s Oxford University and the New York Public Library.

The books will be offered in ‘print-ready’ format, a format that has been used already by a number of firms online.

There is also the US online books website called Project Gutenberg which has been copying out-of-copyright books as text files. The files can then be read on screen or printed off.

How it will be affected by Google’s move is yet to be seen, but don’t be surprised if Google announces a deal for downloading the latestt books. After all, Amazon has already offered limited access to its bookstore.

Waste watchers

When you throw out your garbage do you really know how much will be recycled or even if it will all go to a landfill site? In the UK, three local councils have announced a hi-tech solution to the problem, reports the BBC online.

They are due to trial bins fitted with chips carrying information about the address the bin belonged to and the collection trucks would be fitted with equipment to weigh rubbish in each bin. The problem of recycling is stark in the UK with the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) saying the UK has one of the worst recycling rates in the EU — just 18% is recycled or composted.

Behind these figures looms the threat of fines if the UK fails to meet tough EU landfill reduction targets.

However, there is already an outcry over the scheme with campaigners claiming that the chipped bins are an invasion of privacy. “Once they accept this there is no turning back,” claimed Simon Davies of campaign group Privacy International.

A no-bin situation perhaps?

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