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Alias (5735)

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Journal of Alias (5735)

Thursday December 01, 2005
06:58 AM

Recycled Hunches #1 and #2

[ #27814 ]

I've mentioned before I get a lot of weird hunches and bright ideas, a number of which are junk, but a certain percentage of which are apparently pretty good (CVSMonitor, AppSpace, PPI, OpenOpenOffice, ThreatNet, etc).

So in the interests of providing sparks of ideas for others, and so I can point back in 2 years and say "I told you so", I'm going to start posting a list of "recycled hunches" from time to time.

These are ideas I think might be good, but which I don't think I'm in a position to do. Sort of like a Hates Software, but promoting good ideas, instead of cursing bad ones.

So without further introduction, Recycled Hunches #1 and #2

Hunch #1 Personalised Short Term Weather Reports

* Weather is a chaotic system.

* It's easy to predict the weather over short terms, but hard over long terms and takes a shitload of computer time.

* Theres a whole bunch of weather radars out there that can see rain (and hail, and lightning) with at least 500m accuracy.

* My mobile phone/device will eventually come with GPS standard (already in the US) that knows where I am (certainly to within 500m if it gets any kind of lock at all).

So why not create a short term weather reporting system.

A short term weather report (for up to an hour out) could be created with some degree of accuracy on a grid basis. Instead of waiting for a trained meteorologist like the one I met on the weekend to add the frontal information, and then create broad basic daily reports for one city at a time, create a probability map for the grid for specific events like

- Will it be raining, and how heavy

- Will it be hailing

- Will there be lightning (this one could get a little tricky)

Armed with this grid-based 30 minute and 1 hour predictions, you can filter the grid to subsets like the following (where $perc is some tunable percentage)

- $perc chance of (rain/hail/lightning) where not in the previous prediction

- Rain will stop in $time

Armed with this information, you can compare it to the current active GPS positions of your subscribers, and then text message (or otherwise communicate) to people that some even they care about is going to happen.

The two big examples I can think of are:

"Warn me when hail is coming so I can get my car undercover"

"How long until it stops raining?"

Hmm... I wonder if you could convince an insurance company to fund the hail one...

Hunch #2 - The Mobile Skype Phone (actually-buildable-now version)

This would be a great $100 - $200 project for anyone that liked cute hacky stuff and/or wants to get slashdotted :) You will need the following.

* One mini-sized USB hub

* One composite USB headset/microphone (common now)

* One tiny-sized USB flash drive of say 256meg or higher.

* Duct Tape :)

Step 0: To be slashdotted, photograph the process and write a blog entry mentioning VOIP 2.0 and so on :)

Step 1: Plug the USB flash drive and the USB composite headset into the USB mini-hub

Step 2: Duct tape the flash drive, headset plug and USB flash drive into a suitable cool looking silver blob that has the mini-hubs source socket out one end and the headset cable out the other.

Step 3: Install the Windows version of Skype directly onto the USB flash drive, and preconfigure for your account

And that's it for phase 1!

You now have a headset you can plug into any Windows machine on the internet (i.e. internet cafe or non-geek family/friend), start up Skype on and phone anyone you want for free!

For addition extensions to the basic hack...

* Install all Win32, Mac and Linux versions, so you can run it off any computer. Bonus points if you can make them use the same config files. More bonus points if you can make the config files sync to remote WebDAV.

* Add various init scripts so that Skype loads and foregrounds automatically when you plug the Mobile Skype Phone in. (Probably Windows only)

* Using your electronics /whatever skills (which I don't have), pack the entire assembly of components into a normal telephone handset :)

* ... and add a USB extension cord on a spring-loaded retractable spool so there are no dangling cables.

* ... and make the numbers on the handset automatically dial :)

more to come...

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