Spatial Debt

10 July 2016 Leave a comment

When I was a young (and redundantly poor) college/university student who did not possess much, I obsessively collected and maintained whatever I owned, whether that was books, computers, receipts, guitars, music, magazines, et cetera.  What was once contained to a small dorm room eventually expanded to fill up a house.

With every new item we add, regardless if it is large or small, we take on additional spatial debt.  That becomes one more item to clean, transport, and eventually dispose of.  Larger items such as furniture can be as much of a burden as the smaller stuff.  Things like couches, TVs, computers and bookcases take up large amounts of space, but they are fairly limited in number.  My true nemesis is the boxes of papers which continually grow, generally filled with mail.  This is death by a thousand cuts, since combatting the swell of papers is a never ending battle which requires regular maintenance.  This is not a “one and done” task, but an exhausting, reoccurring event.

I finally cleared out the remains of several broken down entertainment centers which had been laying in my garage for a number of months.  The difficulty here was trying to dispose of the remains in a responsible way.  The remnants were mostly comprised of particleboard, which is not easily recyclable.  I scouted around at a couple of places which could reuse good pieces of wood.  “Good” being the keyword here, which particleboard and chipboard are not, pretty much being leftovers being glued and compressed to resemble a proper piece of wood.  Due to the glue and laminate, they are generally hazardous to burn, so throwing them into a fire pit was not a healthy or safe option.  I did finally find one place which takes various odds and ends, but it came at a cost of $50 per ton.  I could have just thrown the old entertainment centers away (or hope that the garbage trucks would take them), but they would just end up rotting in a dump, and I preferred that they would be handled in a more responsible fashion.

Still, even after these entertainment centers had outlived their usefulness, there was a debt incurred afterwards.  Until they were finally recycled, the junk took up space in the garage.  Once I did finally take care of them, it required time, money and effort to properly dispose of them.

Every time you think about getting something new, consider if you are willing to give up something else in trade.  Without continual maintenance, it becomes far too easy to let all of the “stuff” build up and transform from a simple molehill into a mountain.  This mountain represents your spatial debt, which can easily become overwhelming to handle.  It is best to never get yourself into this debt in the first place, but even if you are already facing the Sisyphean task of reducing the clutter, a good starting point is to stop adding onto the debt and then begin chipping away.  Much like losing weight, it is not a battle that will be quickly or easily won, but with the proper perseverance, that mountain will eventually be reduced back to a molehill.


Solar Powered Accessories for Mobile

4 November 2014 Leave a comment
As mobile devices have become ubiquitous, the need to be able to keep these gadgets charged while on-the-go has become more of a persistent problem.  Far too often one has encountered the scenario of a dead phone due to a drained battery.  In such cases, one may not have the time to sit around while waiting for their electronic device to recharge. Our phones and tablets need accessories which are as mobile as they are to be beneficial — the Solio CLASSIC2 and the Solar Keyboard Folio for iPad are two examples to help keep our devices well powered.


The Solio CLASSIC2 is the latest offering from Better Energy Systems.  This company is no stranger to the field of solar powered chargers and has modeled their business around sleek and accessible solar chargers.   

The CLASSIC2 inherits the best elements of its earlier siblings, the original Solio CLASSIC and the Solio BOLT.  The CLASSIC2 maintains the general shape and fold-out petal appearance of the original CLASSIC, but it is larger, which allows for larger solar panels and a larger 3200 mAh battery, nearly twice the capacity of the CLASSIC’s 1650 mAh battery.

The similarities between the CLASSIC and the CLASSIC2 end there, as the CLASSIC2 eschews the custom ports and cables of its predecessor and follows the BOLT’s model by opting for standard USB ports.  A standard full-sized 5W USB port provides for a convenient method to charge a variety of phones.  An additional benefit for Apple devices (iPhones, iPod touches, and iPads) is the Apple-optimized charging feature, which can be turned on by holding down the power button for five seconds.  To return to normal charging mode, hold the power button down for another five seconds until the button flashes green.

The primary method of charging the Solio CLASSIC2 is by the sun, but it also has the capability to be charged via auxiliary power through the micro-USB port.  This allows the CLASSIC2 to be charged via another connected solar panel or from a traditional power source.

Compact, flexible, and useful, the CLASSIC2 continues the Solio tradition of providing portable solar charging to the market.

Logitech Solar Keyboard Folio for iPad

Logitech’s name is synonymous with computer accessories, so it is no surprise that Logitech also develops products for new breeds of tablets.  Pair that with their experience with other solar-powered keyboards, such as the  K750 and K760, and the result is the Solar Keyboard Folio for iPad.

Despite that mouthful of a product name, the only ornament on the outside of the rubbery-leather case is the Logitech logo and a row of solar panels.  Like Logitech’s other forays with solar-powered keyboards, the Folio cautiously sips energy while the solar panels keep the batteries charged.  Such energy conversation practically eradicates the worry that the device will run out of power like standard wireless peripherals, which can eat through batteries every couple of months.

The Folio communicates with the iPad via Bluetooth, but when not in use, both the keyboard and the iPad are put to sleep, which further assists in saving unnecessary battery drain.

The Solar Keyboard Folio’s dual nature as both a case and a built-in keyboard provide this to be a useful and practical iPad accessory, without bringing the hassle of monitoring and replacing batteries, thanks to the solar powered panels along the top of the case.
Categories: CLASSIC2, Folio, iPad, Solio

Solar Powered Sunglasses + Dinosaur Energy

6 September 2014 Leave a comment

A couple of ideas which I have recently been mulling over…

Solar Powered Sunglasses

With the sun staring me in the face while I was driving, I wondered why there aren’t any solar powered sun glasses available.  If solar panels can make use of UV rays (which a good pair of sunglasses also try to absorb to protect your eyes), why not design a pair of sunglasses with lenses made out of thin, semi-opaque solar cells?

After a little searching, I discovered that this idea isn’t wholly original.  As the Digital Trends site mentions, this is one of those “Why didn’t I think of that” ideas.  However, the reported Ray-Ban Shama Shade has only a thin strip of PV cells along the arms of the glasses, which hardly provides even a nominal amount of space to produce even a decent amount of energy.

My initial idea was a little closer to the Spider-man looking glasses by Yanko Design which uses lenses with dye solar cells .  However, I have not been able to find much information about  these glasses, so they might have been more of a concept product or limited to specific markets.

Perhaps this concept could be extended to a product like Google Glass, where solar cells could be used to give a supportive boost for the battery life.

Extending upon the idea of using semi-opaque solar cells and glass could be better utilized with large windows which could provide a decent amount of energy to help provide power to a building or other structure.

Dinosaur Energy

When I came up with the term “Dinosaur Energy” several months ago, I was surprised that this phrase wasn’t already more prevalent, especially considering the clever dual meanings it has.

  • Non-renewable resources such as oil and coal are formed from the ancient remains of organic matter (e.g. plants, animals).  Hence, these sources of energy truly might have derived from dinosaur remnants.
  • The term “dinosaur” is also a person or thing that is outdated and has became obsolete due to the inability to adapt to the changing environment.  In the computer world, a computer more than a couple of years ago becomes a “dinosaur” or “relic”.  This also reflects where the oil and coal industries are heading.  Their deaths have been predicted for many years, but the stranglehold these industries have on today’s society has prevented them from dying quickly.  However, their reign will eventually come to an end, especially once cleaner (and cheaper) technologies supplant them.  Given enough time, effort, and economy, there will be a brighter energy future in stock for us.  How quickly we can realize this dream is dependent upon our efforts.
Categories: Energy, Solar

Green Festival 2012

 The Green Festival returned to Navy Pier in Chicago this year.  The highlight of the festival was the opportunity to test out the new Ford Focus Electric around the pier.  It drives quite well, is very quiet, but only gets around 70 miles to the charge.  As with most electric vehicles, they don’t offer too much milage outside of a few quick errands before needing to plug in again.  Until EVs can get up to 300+ miles to the charge, they will not be able to act as a primary vehicle for many people. 


  • Green Festival :
  • Solar Goose :
  • Ford Focus Electric :
  • Helios Solar Works :
  • Solar Service :

A photo (source: Green Festival website) of Rev. Jesse Jackson speaking in Chicago.  If I feel like playing a quick game of Where’s Waldo, I can spot myself in the crowd.
  • Green Festival
Categories: Green Festival

Solar Charger Roundup

9 April 2012 Leave a comment

This is a quick roundup of my favorite three solar chargers with their respective pros and cons.

Changers Starter Kit


  • Unique design
  • Social networking aspects
  • Detachable battery
  • Eco-conscious packaging
  • Micro-USB cable works well with the mophie battery pack
  • Standard USB port


  • Solar panel not very strong (needs excellent light source to work effectively)
  • Doesn’t always fully charge some devices



JOOS Orange


  • Large battery
  • Large solar panels which charge at a decent rate
  • Strong, durable, and waterproof
  • myJOOS software available for both Windows and Mac
  • Adjustable legs
  • Works in hot conditions
  • iPad compatible


  • No lights blink if the device is full
  • myJOOS software needs work (still not compatible with Lion)
  • microUSB cable difficult to insert
  • Yet more adapters



Solio BOLT


  • Fast Apple-charging mode
  • Portable
  • Standard USB port


  • Can take several days to charge the internal battery
  • Too easy to leave the power on


Categories: Bolt, Changers, JOOS Orange, Solar, Solio

JOOS Orange Redux

8 April 2012 Leave a comment

One of the niceties of the JOOS Orange is its software companion, myJOOS.  Lately, the software wasn’t recognizing when my JOOS Orange was plugged into my computer (a MacBook Pro).  I then checked the System Profiler and saw that the JOOS Orange wasn’t even being recognized as a connected USB device.  Something was definitely wrong.  I contacted Solar Component’s customer service for assistance, and they requested that I return the defective unit to be either repaired or replaced.

I now have a new-to-me JOOS Orange, and I’m happy to report that it is working better than before.  It is being recognized by my computer and the myJOOS application.  Even better is that it now consistently charges older iOS devices, such as the iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4, where my previous JOOS Orange often had a difficult time being connected consistently to these devices.

In my earlier review, I spent a good portion of the article critiquing the myJOOS software.  I then later discovered that this software isn’t currently compatible with Mac OS X 10.7 “Lion”, yet.  The myJOOS web page had further details:


*** The myJOOS application was actually designed so we could test and run quality control checks on the JOOS Orange in our factory before shipping them out to you. We thought it would be cool to offer the app to our customers so they could see the exact same data we were seeing in our tests. While we have made every attempt to make the application accurate and informative, it is important to note, it is only a beta version of what we plan to offer in the future.

I appreciate these details from the company, and that they recognize that a problem does exist.  This software has some interesting potential, which I hope to see fulfilled at some time in the future.

Categories: JOOS Orange, Solar


17 March 2012 Leave a comment

A recent Wired article reviewed four solar chargers, which included the JOOS Orange and the Solio BOLT.  One of the criticisms of the BOLT was that the smaller set of solar panels couldn’t compete well against the other products which featured larger solar panels.  Common sense would indicate that larger panels would be able to generate more energy.  Seems straightforward, right?  More panels = more power.  Well, yes — to a point.  However, the devilish details tend to make the facts a little fuzzy around the edges, which makes apple-to-apple comparisons difficult.

From what I’ve been told, the JOOS Orange has some of the best solar panels out there — it’s not just the size, but the quality and efficiency of the panels which allow them to generate so much power.  From my own experience, the larger panels and battery of the JOOS Orange have been distinct advantages over its competition.  Rarely have I been able to fully drain the JOOS Orange’s battery when charging up my devices.

WIRED’s article mentions that it took 9 hours to fill up the BOLT’S 7.4 Wh battery.  Now, what if the BOLT’s solar panels were so efficient that they could fully charge the battery in 2 hours, instead of 9?  Perhaps it is time to jump into the Delorean and set the course for the future.

What will solar chargers be like in 5, 10, or 20 years in the future?  If the nascent consumer solar charger market can make similar strides that computers have performed, then there is the possibility that solar chargers will be a common household appliance.  For that to occur, we’ll need to see great leaps in improvement in the efficiency of three areas: solar, batteries, and energy.

Solar Efficiency

The most obvious of the three areas.  Most solar panels are only 10 – 15% efficient in converting solar energy into electricity.  Being able to generate more power with the same surface area is a key goal.  But even the most efficient of today’s solar panels only reach around 20%, a far cry from the level that we’d like to achieve.  Ideally, a solar charger would be able to collect and store more energy than a person could reasonably use.

Battery Efficiency

The battery industry has tremendous potential and hurtles to meet current and future demands at both the consumer and industrial level.

Two decades ago, the word “battery” would have elicited thoughts of Energizer or Duracell.  The need for powerful and efficient batteries has become ever more necessary in a world filled with mobile devices (laptops, phones, tablets, etc.).  The third generation iPad increased its battery size to 42.5 Wh (versus the iPad 2’s 25Wh battery) to maintain up to a 10 hour charge while being able to power the higher resolution display and LTE networking.  The latest mobile phones struggle to go through a full day without draining their batteries.  The need for solar chargers to contain more efficient batteries is no less.

Energy Efficiency

Long before one should venture into the costly realm of installing a solar array for their house, one can perform other measures to reduce the amount of electricity they consume by using more energy efficient appliances, disconnecting machines from the wall when not in use, and just using less in general.

The aforementioned iPad increased its battery storage to be able to support the new features.  Phones such as the EVO 4G bleed through its battery due to its many antennae (WiMAX, 3G, WiFi) searching for signals.  A compromise between both software and hardware is needed to improve the overall performance and efficiency of mobile devices.  With less power used should lead to needing to charge the phone fewer times, which lengthens the life of the battery, in addition to improving the user experience with fewer charges.

To be able to meet the demand of charging up several mobile devices, I make use of four solar chargers (JOOS Orange, Solio BOLT, Solio Classic-i, Changers).  Still, this is only a small step towards a brighter and more energy efficient future.

Categories: Bolt, JOOS Orange, Solar, Solio