This week at TreeHugger: We discover that lowering the frame rate on your iPhone (or other video-playing gadget) will magically extend your battery life. Solar power goes on the road, as this guy uses the power of the sun to blog about his trip, as it happens.
While we're on the topic, check out these solar-powered industrial strength routers for community WiFi. Lastly, from the "Why did they even bother?" files, comes the Waterbutt, a kinda fun, kinda sexy (?) rainwater harvesting and storage device for your garden.
If you're one of those guys who demands that highest-possible performance from every one of your gadgets, this might not be for you; if you're tired of your iPhone (and other video-playing gadgets) pooping out after what seems like mere minutes, listen up. Researchers at the University of Maryland have found a quick, easy way to conserve power in devices like the iPhone by as much as two-thirds: cut back on the frame rate. According to Gang Qu, one of the lead scientists on the study, lowering the decoding standards for digital video — reducing the frames per second from 30 to 24, for example — would have little effect on most viewers and would actually help lower a device's power consumption and extend its battery life. And who doesn't want more time to play with their iPhone?
Steve Paine is an Englishman in Germany who has undertaken a pleasant journey by bike, and is blogging the whole trip by solar-powered PC. He is using a UMPC, a type of very small laptop, which seems perfect for a trip like this. Not only is it small and easy to transport, but its energy usage is very low compared to a large laptop. The idea of self-sufficient computing, unburdened from having to find a power point every few hours, is pretty dang awesome; here's what Steve had to say about it, from one of his entries: "Although it's been warm it's been very cloudy today. Much cloudier than yesterday and yet I still managed to get some charge into the battery." Is there anything solar can't do?
Speaking of the power of the sun, a company called Solis Energy has begun pitching solar-powered industrial strength routers for community WiFi. We heard through the grapevine at CNET that, "Several state governments are pushing for increased use of solar energy to cut power consumption and curb greenhouse gases. But green routers have another advantage. Routers, sensors, road signs and other devices that derive their power from the sun or the wind don't need to be hooked up to wires, which often don't exist in remote locations."
Lastly, put a double entendre outside your house with these goofy Waterbutts. Originating in the UK, where rainwater-collection barrels are often called water butts, someone has taken the idea a little too literally, but, hey, whatever gets you in to water conservation. They're available now for anyone who wants to wake up to see a bare butt lurking by the front door every day.
TreeHugger's EcoModo column appears every Tuesday on Gizmodo.