Archive for July, 2011

Solar Powered Experiment Results

24 July 2011 5 comments

After a week of attempting to only use solar power to keep my iPhone charged, the end result was mostly successful.  There were two times I needed to connect my phone to a computer.  The first time was to update the phone’s system software to iOS 4.3.4.  The second time I needed to give the phone a boost of power since its battery was down to 9%, and I needed to make a phone call and didn’t want to get disconnected due to a bad signal and low power.

Trying to keep a power-hungry smart phone fully charged is not an easy task.  One of the most critical lessons learned from this past week is a cornerstone of green living.  Conserve.  Learn to live with less.  As long as I only used the phone occasionally to send text messages, make the occasional phone call, and perhaps perform a couple of other internet-related items (stocks, web browsing, social networks), I was able to keep the phone sufficiently powered by the sun.

Tips to keep a good charge:

  • Turn off any unnecessary radios when not being used.  I normally only keep the EDGE connection turned on, and normally have WiFi and 3G disabled.  But to really maintain a good charge, put the phone into Airplane mode when you know you will not need to a connection to the network (or even turn the phone completely off).
  • Keep the phone out of areas which mask the signal.  This causes the phone to work harder to try and find a signal, which wastes more of the battery.
  • Only use the phone when necessary.  I’ve watched numerous teenagers quickly drain their phone’s battery due to non-stop texting.

On Friday I listened to music for several hours, which drained at least a third of the battery.  One of the reasons I wanted an iPhone was to be able to reduce the number of gadgets I owned.  Instead of having a mobile phone and an iPod, I wanted just a single device.  The iPhone was designed and marketed with idea this in mind — to be an internet device, a phone, and an iPod.  While having an iPhone helps by not having to power up multiple devices, it does leave me to have to rely on my iPhone more if I want to listen to music or read the news.

Smart phones love to consume power and bandwidth on many non-phone activities, but what about the power requirements of a feature phone?   Nokia is testing this idea, as evidenced with the Nokia solar powered phone project.  Nokia is attaching the specialized Lokki device to a Nokia C1 or C2 phone in their attempts to see how viable a solar powered phone is in various environments (Sweden, Finland, Baltic Sea, and Kenya).

The initial reports are interesting, but the testers seem to be encountering the same issues I have found in trying to charge the Solio.  Current solar chargers work best when facing direct sunlight.  However, since the sun’s position moves during the day, this requires the charger to also need to be repositioned to gain the greatest amount of solar energy.  While this method works out decently for chargers, it may not work as well if the solar cells are attached to the phone itself.  Typically, a mobile phone is carried on the person (in a pocket, purse, bag, etc.), and generally is not left laying out in a window.  Even if someone can position their phone in a window all day long, there is the concern if the phone might get overly warm due to the direct rays of the sun which are necessary to deliver enough power to charge up the battery.  It will be interesting to see if Nokia’s experiment will prove to be a viable solution to power a phone with solar power.


Categories: iPhone, Nokia, Solar, Solio

Solar Powered Experiment

20 July 2011 Leave a comment

A week ago, a powerful storm ripped through the area and took out the power (and many trees, as well).  I was fortunate that the power was out for only 12 hours, but some people in the area were without power for up to five days.

During this powerless interval, it put things into perspective how dependent we are upon electricity.  Fortunately, I was not immediately worried about being left with dead cell phones due to having a Solio and an iGo Charge Anywhere on hand.

In light of the past week’s events, I am experimenting if I can go a week by charging my iPhone by using nothing but solar power.  Fortunately, the weather has remained fairly sunny lately, so being able to get a sufficient amount of sunlight to power my mobile phone should work.

Categories: iGo, iPhone, Solar, Solio

Solio Review

16 July 2011 Leave a comment

Solio Classic-i

First Impressions

As an effort to become more ecologically minded, I invested in a Solio Classic-i charger, which will be useful in recharging smaller devices such as the Nintendo DS, iPod touch, and (of course) mobile phones.  Considering that most cell phones need to get recharged every day or few, the Solio should garner quite a bit of use.

I’ve had an eye on the Solio for the past few years, and I see devices such as this as the Trojan Horse to introduce alternative energy products into households.  Currently, there are very few products which can be purchased off the shelf at your local retail store (small calculators and driveway lanterns being the two items which rely on solar power).  Considering the lack of readily available alternative energy products, we as a populace are still far away from the goal of obtaining our power outside of fossil fuels.

The challenge is to see how well the Solio works for my needs by charging my devices, instead of drawing powering from the wall, car, or computer.

Redux – 1 Week Later

I’ve been using the Solio Classic-i for about a week now. The first time I used it, it charged up my iPhone pretty well. However, subsequent attempts to charge the Solio haven’t been quite as successful. I paid an extra $5 for a suction cup to adhere the Solio to the window, but the Solio was too heavy for the suction cup and the Solio kept falling off. Not worth it. I also purchased two adapters, one for the iPhone/iPod touch, and another for a Samsung phone. Unfortunately, I took a guess at which Samsung adapter to buy. I guessed wrong. I’ll need to seek out another location to try and find the proper iGo adapter for the Samsung phone. I believe I might have seen iGo adapter tips at an AT&T store, so I will check there.

During my recent vacation, I placed the Solio in the back of the car, behind the head rests, and that gave it pretty good exposure to the sun. I will need to give this more of a shot to determine how well this will work for day-to-day activities. I enjoy the prospect of being a little more eco-friendly, and I love how the Solio is a great consumer-friendly product, but I feel there is still a very long road ahead before similar products will heavily populate the general market.

Tip: To determine how much charge the Solio currently has, press the power button on the back. It should flash 1 to 5 times, 1 being the lowest, 5 meaning close to a full charge. Personally, I’d prefer a system like old Apple laptop batteries displayed by showing a row of lights to display how much battery power was left.

Further Thoughts – 6 Months Later

A couple more thoughts about the Solio after having used this product for half a year:

  • For best use, place the Solio in a window that can get as much light during the day. At one point, I was moving the Solio from window to window throughout the day, but finally found one good location.
  • It takes around 2 – 3 days of good, constant sunlight to fully charge up the Solio.
  • Solio products and iGo adapters can be purchased at Radio Shack. Radio Shack also sells other energy-saving products such as other iGo products, solar kits, and Z-wave devices (for home automation).
  • It appears to be able to charge up a device as quickly as if the device was being charged via a household outlet.
  • Doesn’t seem to stop charging a device even once the device’s battery is full. This can unnecessarily drain the Solio’s own charge.  I checked with Solio’s technical support, and said that the Solio will stop charging a device once it is full, but this might take up to 15 minutes.
  • The Solio is a great device to use when on-the-go, but it is not ideal for all situations.  The Solio cannot be left in a hot car, since it will stop charging (for safety reasons so the battery doesn’t melt) once the internal temperature of the device reaches 120 °F (49 °C).
  • This is a promising device, but it is still more of a novelty than a practical device for daily use. Perhaps in the future when solar panels can generate more energy from sunlight (even on cloudy days) the Solio will become more useful for day-to-day applications.

Categories: Classic-i, Solar, Solio


16 July 2011 1 comment

Welcome to Zia Core.

My primary interest for many years has been computer programming, especially focused around the Web, Mac, and iOS.  While the computer industry is always churning, many of the initial major hurtles were overcome years ago.

As a programmer, I love a good problem.  There still remain many interesting problems in the computer arena, but in many cases, the same problems are being rehashed, just from a different angle.

Methods to generate renewable energy have been around for a long time, but like the computer industry in the mid-1970s, it has not come even remotely close to meeting its potential.  Prior to the explosion of the home computer market, computers were reserved for businesses and universities.  The renewable energy industry is in a similar state – large scale renewable energy production is limited to those large businesses which can afford the costs.  There are some who have invested into adding solar panels to their homes, but the upfront cost is still prohibitively expensive (around $20,000).  When home computers began to reach into the mass market in the 1980s, the typical computer cost into the thousands of dollars (the original Macintosh initially sold for $2495 in 1984).  Today in 2011, a capable computer can be easily purchased for less than a thousand dollars.  For solar panels (and related products) to reach a mass appeal, we will need to see a similar reduction in cost of production and a dramatic increase in the efficiency of generating and storing energy.

About Zia Core

This site has been established to formalize my thoughts and ideas about alternative energy, related products, and the “green” industry.  A lot of different ideas were thrown about for a good name, but many of the domain names had already been claimed.  Here are a sample of names I thought of which were already taken.

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When reading through a guidebook about New Mexico, the term “zia” came up, referencing not only the Zia Pueblo tribe, but also the Zia Sun symbol, which is featured on the New Mexico flag.  The name was perfect.  Short, easy to pronounce, and relating to the sun.  However, others had also thought of this same idea, so I started to mix and match the term “zia” with other words until I found one that I liked.  Being a programmer, the term “core” has had multiple meanings to me, from “core dump” to the various Core technologies by Apple, Inc. (CoreImage, CoreData, CoreAudio, etc.).  Considering that the sun also has a core, the term “Zia Core” fit quite nicely.

Categories: Uncategorized