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Benjamin Oakes

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Hi, I'm Ben Oakes and this is my geek blog. Currently, I'm a Ruby/JavaScript Developer at Liaison. Previously, I was a Developer at Continuity and Hedgeye, a Research Assistant in the Early Social Cognition Lab at Yale University and a student at the University of Iowa. I also organize TechCorridor.io, ICRuby, OpenHack Iowa City, and previously organized NewHaven.rb. I have an amazing wife named Danielle Oakes.

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Replace Battery in the 1st Edition Barnes and Noble Nook

by Ben

If necessary, the battery can be replaced. A replacement battery must be of the following type:

Barnes & Noble Lithium Polymer battery
Model Number BNRB1530
Rating: 3.7V, 1530mAh, 5.66Wh

You will need a small Phillips head screw driver (size 0 or 00).

Source: NOOK 1st Edition – Replace Battery – Barnes and Noble

I recently picked up a 1st generation Nook for $20. I was a little weary of the age of the battery (6 or so years old?), but it turns out that this Nook is one of the few consumer electronics released in recent memory that was built to be repairable. (The battery was meant to be replaced! There are even official instructions.) This is in stark contrast to my 2nd generation Amazon Kindle which had hardware problems and became unusable right after the warranty period ended. That experience soured me on the Kindle, understandably.

At any rate, the only Nook that has a user-replaceable battery is the 1st generation model. Also, it seems that Barnes and Noble doesn’t seem to sell the replacement anymore. (I could only find one outdated listing). Fortunately, the batteries are easily found online for about $10. The steps are pretty obvious to replace it: pop off the back with your fingers, unscrew a screw, put the new battery in, and then reverse the process.

Between the replaceable battery and the free 3G internet included with the device, hopefully these devices stay in use for quite a long time!

Where do laptops go when they die?

by Ben

The rest of the e-waste entering Wistron’s recycling plant has a different fate. Cables go one way to have their copper recovered. Steel frames go another. Lithium-ion batteries go to dedicated lithium operations. Case fans might even be saved and reused. Any components that can be yanked off circuit boards are, and then it’s on to precious metals.

[…]

“In some ways, it’s gotta start on the front end, in terms of consumers wanting products that are more recyclable,” Huang said.

That’s a particularly tough sell since consumers get almost no information about how recyclable any given product is. A company may improve its image by advertising “green” programs, but there is little financial incentive beyond that to put the work into solving these problems and designing for recyclability. It’s hard enough to match competitors’ progress on all the characteristics consumers know they do want.

The closest thing to an Energy Star label for recyclability is the EPEAT registry, where companies can verify that their products meet an IEEE standard.

Source: Where do laptops go when they die? | Ars Technica

Remember: a working computer can almost always be used by someone.  While recycling is important, re-use is also an important part of the solution.

California issues more self-driving permits, Iowa creates testing corridor

by Ben

On Monday, HERE (the mapping company now owned by Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz) and the Iowa Department of Transportation announced their own project to develop an autonomous vehicle and freight movement corridor on I-380 between Iowa City and Cedar Rapids.

Source: California issues more self-driving permits, Iowa creates testing corridor

Internet Freedom Is Actively Dissolving in America

by Ben

Broadband access is declining, data caps are becoming commonplace, surveillance is increasing, and encryption is under attack.

Source: Internet Freedom Is Actively Dissolving in America

How to mute the news room on a Cisco WebEx call

by Ben

WebEx has a feature that plays the news while you wait for the meeting organizer to arrive. It’s a nice idea in theory, but it can make it difficult to, say, write an email while you wait.

To mute the news feed, this is all you need to do:

The news feed will mute and you will then hear silence.

Cable TV box rental fees cost average household $232 a year

by Ben

99 percent of customers rent set-top boxes from TV providers, survey found.

Source: Cable TV box rental fees cost average household $232 a year

Save the world using your PC or phone

by Ben

By joining your machine to others around the world, you could help eradicate diseases or find alien life.

Source: Save the world using your PC or phone – CNET

BOINC’s Android app is particularly amazing to me. If you already plug your phone in overnight, you should consider installing it. Unfortunately there isn’t an iOS counterpart.

Microsoft Will Help Iowa Caucuses Go High-Tech

by Ben

Microsoft Will Help Iowa Caucuses Go High-Tech – Slashdot.

Poltical party caucuses are one of the quirkier aspects of American political life: local party members gather in small rooms across the state, discuss their preferences, and send a report of how many delegates for each candidate will attend later county and statewide caucuses to ultimately choose delegates to the national convention. It’s also a system with a lot of room for error in reporting, as local precinct leaders have traditionally sent in reports of votes via telephone touch-tone menus and paper mail. In 2016, Microsoft will help both Democrats and Republicans streamline the process.

Android Auto, Apple CarPlay on many 2016 Chevy models

by Ben

From their press release, the following Chevy models will have Android Auto and Apple CarPlay support:

For those unfamiliar with Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, it lets you replace or supplement the infotainment system that comes with your car.  For example, you could use a music or navigation app running on your phone, rather than using the software that came with the car.  This will be especially interesting 10 years from now (2025!), when you might really wish you had a more up-to-date infotainment system in your 2016 model-year car.  These Android and Apple systems make it much easier to update how your car works, especially compared to physically removing part of your dashboard and replacing it.  Personally, I’ve been thinking it would be interesting just to leave an old smartphone in the car, charging over USB and loaded with music and maps that were downloaded over WiFi.

I’m especially intrigued by this because I’ve been considering a replacement for our 2003 model-year car, and it’s important to think 10 years ahead for such a big purchase.  (After all, we’re using a 2003 model-year car in 2015.)  While Android Auto or Apple CarPlay support isn’t likely to make or break our decision, it definitely has its benefits.

Android and iOS apps on Windows: What is Microsoft doing—and will it work?

by Ben

Android and iOS apps on Windows: What is Microsoft doing—and will it work? | Ars Technica.

The way Microsoft presented the Android and iOS support on stage last week wasn’t particularly encouraging. The way that Projects Astoria and Islandwood—the codenames for Android and iOS app support, respectively—were promoted in the keynote presentation, one might think that the Android and iOS support were pretty solid substitutes for the Universal Windows Apps that are native to Windows 10 on all the hardware form factors it will support. It seemed like porting apps from those platforms would be an effective alternative to any plans to develop native Windows applications.

This is pretty crazy: Windows will support Android and iOS applications through compatibility layers.  I don’t really see the iOS layer getting a lot of traction just because it takes a lot of work, but the strong Android support is going to further entrench Android as a platform you can deploy to almost anything (second only to HTML5).