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November 7th, 2013

disc driveCNET’s Josh Lowensohn declared a week or so ago that the “disc drive is dead,” explaining that it hadn’t happened to “PCs just yet, but certainly in Apple’s Macs.” There has been buzz about the death of optical drives for a few years. As it coincides with the advent of small, net-connected devices—including laptops in new form factors like ultrabooks, our own iPad rental, the iPhone, and the zillion Android tablets and smartphones—the story of its demise is somewhat cloudy. The choice of terms is deliberate. Let’s put this trend in historical perspective, and acknowledge up front that the interactive Internet with “that whole cloud thing” is both a cause and result of today’s coalescing, interrelated tech advances.

Apple recently updated its MacBook Pro line and introduced the futuristic Mac Pro. Lost in the fine print of a press release was the news that Apple was dropping the 15-inch, non-Retina MacBook Pro, leaving a single 13-inch non-Retina model with an optical drive. Lowensohn says this is Apple’s way of signaling “imminent extinction.” You may recall that Steve Jobs’ insanely great original iMac was released without a floppy drive and soon enough, all of Apple’s computers were floppy-less. Ditching optical drives merely continues the effort begun with the disc-less MacBook Air in 2008. Since the App Store didn’t open until 2011, it was “a gamble,” concedes Lowensohn, to drop a major conduit for getting software into your computer. Looking back, it is hard to argue against Apple’s prescience.

Size, weight, and waste

Dropping the optical drives in the Air reduced power consumption, system complexity, weight, and size. Building on this experience, Apple engineers trimmed the new 2013 iMac’s girth and volume by some 40% and estimated that the new Mac Pro is “one-eighth the volume of the previous generation.” Such other new components as flash storage (replacing the moving parts of the hard drive), high-speed wireless (802.11ac vs. 802.11n), and Bluetooth have sped up Macs by providing alternative connectivity for storage, communications, peripherals, etc. Apple has also taken the “connectivity crown” with Thunderbolt 2, capable of two simultaneous 20Gbps streams. Real world transfer speeds? Recently, Intel put up a demo showing “peak performance…just under 1100MB/s.” Over a gig per second? Fast!

Lowensohn notes the practical impacts of Apple’s hardware-trimming campaign, one of which is a huge reduction in shipping and storage costs. There are important marketing considerations; there are enough environmental benefits to call this continuing reduction of size, weight, and waste a “green program,” right in line with enlightened corporate goals and social values. When you consider the ingredients we’ve discussed—flash memory, WiFi, Thunderbolt 2—it is sobering to remember what is on the way. Holographic displays, gesture sensors, voice control, visual commands, instant translation, virtual keyboards—what crazy combo or brand-new idea will make our devices easier to use, smaller, less costly, more powerful, and more attuned (and tuned-in) to our individual lives? Well, we know the future is disc-less—and we think it will be “cloudy” for a while, too.

So if you need a disc-less computer or laptop, feel free to contact the experts at CRE Rentals. We have the latest technology rentals to suit your office or corporate event needs.

November 5th, 2013

SunIt seems that the “paradigm shift” we’re all waiting for—the one where cheap, efficient solar cells deliver free, unlimited energy—is always just around the corner. As it was before, it is today, and the intervening years resounded with the same question: Where is the sun-powered future we were promised? As Apple delivers a new Mac Pro seemingly imported from that imaginary future, while continuing to perfect its iconic iMac, we are tempted to see promising developments in solar power generation as potential Earth-savers. As a nation, we finally seem to realize that every aspect of everyone’s life, everywhere, is affected by limited energy. As the hope of cheap solar energy lives on, let’s take a look at three particular developments.

The existing-infrastructure solution

Windows could save the world. Don’t thank Bill Gates, though—we’re talking about glass windows. They’re part of the entire world’s basic infrastructure, having evolved into specialized kinds:

  • automotive glass that breaks into small blocks, not shards;
  • glass for high-tech use, like LCD touchscreen monitor rental, that combines touch sensitivity with extreme hardness;
  • dual-pane windows that offer insulation; and
  • tinted, reflective, proprietary (Gorilla Glass) and so on.

Until recently, there were no solar cells that worked with see-through materials. But New Energy Technologies Inc. of Maryland developed a spray in 2011 that dries clear on glass and generates electricity. The firm says it is also testing “electricity-generating flexible plastic [that] could be deployed as tinted window film, which remains see-through while generating electrical power.”

This spin is no lie

A common issue with energy-producing contraptions is the production of such unwelcome byproducts as vibration, noise, waste—and heat. Without cooling, internal combustion engines would have very short lives, as would high-end Mac Pro rental, whose multiple fans keep it from literally burning up. The heat from the sun causes stationary solar panels to break down, too, in any number of ways, so V3Solar is developing one that is not flat and rectangular, but a truncated cone (lampshade shape) that harvests 20% more energy and powers its own rotation for air cooling. The ability to place multiple units in small spaces shows the potential for the kind of mass use that could undercut costs of both coal and hydroelectric power. V3Solar hopes to offer individuals and businesses a way to support sustainable energy.

Thin is in

Solar cells of the “thin-film voltaic” kind are not new, but neither have they evolved much. When multiple layers of the film are stacked up, naturally occurring reflective patterns restrict the amount of energy collected. A new film—developed by Dr. Chih-Hao Chang and his team at North Carolina State University—eliminates interference by mimicking the non-reflective coatings on moth’s eyes. When used in new thin film solar cells, lost energy is 100 times less. The “macro” level—solar farms, space-based collectors—holds many exciting possibilities, but so does the “micro” level of personal power producers from iPad rental to smartphones, new smart-watches and… the list goes on, right? Decentralized power generation—literally, “Power to the people”—is a topic we have covered before, and one we will update soon. Watch for it!

From computer rentals for post-production to audio visual (AV) equipment rentals for conference breakout sessions, an expert Account Executive can help you at (877) 266-7725. If you know what you need, visit our Quick Rental Quote page. We’re always ready to help in different ways, but with one goal: Your complete satisfaction!

August 29th, 2013

It’s exciting when unpredictable mixes and mashups of today’s various technology trends converge into something new or, as often happens, new againTelecommuting is presently enjoying a resurgence of interest, a second wind, you might say.

As high-performing media and tech professionals seek lower-impact lifestyles, enlightened firms are attempting to integrate them into a workforce of both diversity and flexibility. But will companies be able to accommodate telecommuters working off the grid, in so-called tiny houses or other alternative structures?

off-grid solar-powered home

Living Large in a Small Way

The new generation of high-tech pros includes a sizable fraction of folks that are ready to commit to a lower-impact lifestyle. The formula has three ingredients that can be combined in various ways to make it all happen:

  • Smaller, more affordable, greener, smarter home designs have made it possible for today’s professionals to lessen their total “eco-impact”;
  • the proliferation of WiFi and the ubiquity of the Internet mean that distance workers can log in remotely with computers or what-have-you; and

Assuming you have some land, you can buy a Tumbleweed ”house to go” and drive it right onto the property. In many states you need no building permits, because little houses on wheeled platforms are, ahem, trailers.

If you’re the kind of nature lover that needs to upload files while watering the vegetables, you’ll be glad to know there are a variety of ways to power your lifestyle in a sustainable, suitably eco-safe and -sane manner.

Power Sources of the Future… Now

For years, the only way to get sufficient power living off the grid was to use gas-guzzling, smoke-spewing generators, essentially little car engines running to charge batteries of some kind (12v DC railroad systems, battery and bulb, were a popular choice, and still are).

Today, we not only have more options, we have clean and consistent ones. We’ve been hearing it for years, but it just may be true this time around that solar is poised for a big breakthrough. As the cost of sun power continues to drop, there are other alternative sources maturing into cost-effectiveness, such as wind power.

Power requirements for a laptop and a few tech devices are not difficult to achieve with small solar arrays, but you need to evaluate your situation carefully, It may be better to get small, individual chargers  for your small devices. Your main power generator needs to support the computer and satellite Internet.

A Few Limitations, but Worth It to Some

Assuming you’re not too far into the wilderness, you may also be able to establish a WiFi connection with your smartphone or mobile hot spot doohickey. Of course, Verizon and other telecoms have 3G/4G netbooks and laptops on the same kinds of monthly plans as phones.

You can probably forget the big flat-panel TV, though, and may only be able to use a few devices at a time on your “main,” although you can run some on their built-in batteries and schedule recharging. (How much simultaneous power slurping do you really need to do?) Try minimizing your power use, even as you balance your career/work obligations with your new lifestyle.

Yes, you can have your cake and eat it, too, but perhaps we should tweak that metaphor a bit. Try this: We can live and work in nature, without devouring it.

August 7th, 2013

You all know we like to have our fun, right? These “Gear & Gadget” blogs are a good mix of fun, tech, wit, and insight, and today we have a most eclectic collection of items for your perusal. Shall we?

Robotic Spider

robot spiderDefinitely for the person who has everything, the Robugtix T8 arachnid costs over $1,300, with most of the money going to the sophisticated electronics inside. The outer shell, well constructed of quality material, is produced on 3D printers (we’ll let you know when our printer rentals inventory expands to include them) and is said to look quite real. That observation extends to its movements (“incredibly realistic”), which are driven by 26 small motors under the direction of the Bigfoot Inverse Kinematics Engine. The T8 can move around autonomously, or you can control your eight-legged pet with the included remote.

Keep On Keepin’ On

Released so recently that it only works with Android 4.0 or above, Google Keep is yet another “digital Post-It note” app. The idea of digital memos is not a new concept, and the Keep product introduction seemed from another era. What with Evernote, the Mac’s Stickies, and a gajillion other note-takers, it’s not as if there’s an unserved niche. But Keep debuted the week after Google Reader died, so it got little publicity. Google says Keep was designed not just to “jot ideas down,” buGoogle Keep icont to tailor notes with photos, hyperlinks, checklists, calendars, and more—and do so whether you’re working on your PC, iPad rental, smartphone, or other device. Notes are stored on Google Drive, so you can easily search entries via your browser or the Android app (sorry, Apple fans).

Hermit Housing

Renowned Italian architect Renzo Piano has designed a high-tech, low-impact micro-home with the somewhat fanciful name of Diogene. The design and production used the same high-tech approachDiogene-Eco-Homees familiar to the engineer-designers who rent our render farms and other leading-edge gear. “Maximum minimalism” is a perfect term for this hermit home’s theme, since you shower in collected rainwater, use a green toilet, and generate your own electricity. Great care has gone to optimizing the use of space, as long as you don’t have too much to store. In the Diogene you have a way to live a low-tech lifestyle, albeit one that would be impossible without the high-tech tools and materials that went into its construction.

The Firefox Phone

So there’s the Facebook phone. Then there are plans for phones that run on Linux (the Ubuntu model may be first). Now come phones based on web browsers, the first being the Firefox phone. South AmericanFirefox Phone Telefonica has two phones running on the Firefox OS. The ZTE One and Alcatel One Touch Fire are on sale now in Colombia and Venezuela, with a launch in Brazil slated for Q4 2013. Strong momentum is building behind the Firefox OS and other web-centric alternatives, and this is just the beginning. The platforms, the “content ecosystems,” and the number of compatible devices, from refrigerators with web-browsing screens to tablet PCs still on the drawing board, will continue to grow.

Whether you need a powerful high-tech tool like our AJA IO HD, or need an expert’s help in choosing the most effective convention rentals, CRE is your one-stop shop. Call (877) 266-7725, send us a message, or use our Quick Rental Quote form if you know what you need. We are here to help—any challenge, any time—so call now!

July 23rd, 2013

While there is no literal “continent-sized garbage dump” of discarded plastic bags floating in the middle of the ocean, no thinking person would say there are no waste issues in the All this junk could have been valuablemodern world. The Ocean Recovery Alliance is one of many groups working to influence both business and government to practice better stewardship of the world’s oceans, which some call the “new global dumpsites.”

And get this: Even waste is being wasted! There is vast untapped value in the ocean waste, and the rest of it, too. And it’s not just plastics anymore. The sheer number (billions) of technological devices—from computers and smartphones to LCD TVs and more—makes a coordinated global waste management strategy quite challenging. And as 3D printing proliferates, every semi-tech-head becomes a manufacturer, with waste product(s) to consider.

The Ocean Recovery Alliance’s Plasticity Forum brings together representatives of manufacturers, tech firms, “green brand” leaders, think tanks, and government agencies to focus on “solution-driven thinking about plastic waste.”

On a roll

The inaugural Plasticity Forum took place in 2012 at the Rio+20 Earth Summit, where a range of innovative, sustainable plastics strategies (and alternative ingredients) were considered. The Forum organizers included activists, interest groups, leadership training group Applied Brilliance, and the Australian organization Republic of Everyone. With over 130 industry representatives, government leaders, innovators, and educators from over 15 nations, the first Forum was a success. Discussions continued this year in Hong Kong on every step in plastic’s life-cycle, affecting everything from car interiors to our Mac Pro rental: formulas and materials, designs and packaging, research and innovation, and—at the end of a particular device’s life-cycle—waste capture and re-use for a “cradle to cradle” approach.

Plasticity Forum

After last year’s inaugural event, the founder of MBA Polymers, Mike Biddle, spoke of the “many sustainable ways” there were to use and re-use plastics. He lamented the prevalence of today’s “one-way use” and described how his firm’s advanced “sorting technologies” can recover nearly any type of plastic and recycle it back into “a pure feedstock stream.” All the old iMac cases and PC towers have a treasure trove of recyclables beyond plastic, too (an upcoming blog will discuss recapturing all the value from high-tech discards). Companies that can reclaim value from the detritus of our tech-happy culture, like this new one in Canada, are likely to receive both high revenue and the appreciation of thoughtful consumers.

The way forward

Event organizer and co-founder of the Ocean Recovery Alliance, Doug Woodring, sums it up well: “The brands that will win are the ones that admit the communities they serve have a problem with plastic waste; that take the lead in making improvements; and are part of that solution.” Harnessing plastic waste streams has already led to substantial savings for some firms, and the message is spreading that good environmental policy can be good for business, too. In the 1980s, with books like Winning Through Intimidation topping the business best-seller lists, companies were advised to “be lean and mean.” Now that we’ve grown up enough at least to considesavr the waste problems we face, the replacement for that unfortunate advice is simple and profound: Be lean and green.

CRE, always your smart source for high-tech rentals, decided long ago to “go green,” so count on us to steer you to solutions that are “high” in terms of tech and power, but “low” on energy consumption. Whether you need to find trade show convention rentals for that upcoming conference or laptops for your field sales reps, you will get first-rate advice from an experienced CRE Account Executive. Call (877) 266-7725, send a message, or visit the Quick Rental Quote page.

July 16th, 2013

DoubleRoboticsIn May 2013, at the VERGE Conference in Boston—“where tech meets sustainability”—the keynote address was delivered by Andrew McAfee, a top-tier “IT leadership strategist” and lead researcher at MIT Sloan’s Center for Digital Business. The audience watched McAfee’s face closely as he spoke, while he ambled casually about the stage to look at and interact with different groups of people. There was just one little difference between McAfee’s keynote address and all the other presentations before and after: McAfee was in Arizona at the time. His “appearance” served to dramatize various themes of the conference, particularly sustainability and “smart city ecosystems”: McAfee reduced his cost, time, waste, and environmental impact by “going” to VERGE virtually, rather than on a commercial jet.

A conflict in his schedule forced McAfee to deliver his address from Arizona via a teleconferencing system—literally a robot and an iOS app—from Double Robotics. Remotely, McAfee controlled a wheeled, electro-motorized, 47- to 60-inch stand dubbed “Double” that is something like the Segway “people mover.” (The system doesn’t include Apple’s tablet, so you’d mount a CRE iPad rental on the stand, with the screen facing the audience, some 4 to 5 feet high.) The screen that day was filled with McAfee’s face (the iPad was his head, the Double his body) and he could gauge audience reactions via the iPad’s front camera. In what way was McAfee not there? And what does “there” even mean in this context? The proliferation of all different kinds of simpler, cheaper, and better meeting and conferencing technology will quickly redefine what it means to have a “face to face” meeting.

Irreversible transformations ahead

The topic of McAfee’s keynote was the theme of a recent book that he co-authored with Erik Brynjolfsson, Race Against the Machine: How the Digital Revolution Is Accelerating Innovation, Driving Productivity, andDouble Robotics Virtual presence Irreversibly Transforming Employment and the Economy. The Industrial Revolution effectively moved the human race past its physical limitations, by creating machines and processes to be our “muscles.” Just 40 years or so into the Home Computer Age—with today’s standard desktop computer rental thousands of times more powerful than the computer on the original moon landing—we have refined our “thinking machines” sufficiently to offload ever more sophisticated and complex number-crunching and analysis.

With more and more “knowledge-related tasks” being automated, freeing humans from repetitive and mundane work, other technological advances will provide more, and more powerful, tools for innovation. The expensive process undertaken by Steve Jobs going on 20 years ago—modeling, making prototypes, refining every component as he created the iMac—is available now to millions via 3D printers, whose prices keep falling in the usual market-driven way. When you reflect on the passionate creativity of some fellow humans, and understand the basics of science and technology, you know it won’t be long before 3D printers will be a normal part of many office equipment rentals inventories, and why you can’t even begin to imagine what is coming next.

CRE truly is your smart source for everything in tech, including high-powered computer rentals specially configured for challenging graphics, animation, and post-production. Whether your challenge is on the road, in the office, or at a conference, the solutions are all right here. Call an expert Account Executive at (877) 266-7725, send us a message, or visit the Quick Rental Quote page. If you’re ready to go, we’re ready to help!

June 27th, 2013

OSX-Mavericks-iconApple fans and detractors alike enjoy the firm’s conferences, like the recent WWDC 2013, because both groups eagerly await the latest and greatest from Cupertino—one to praise the firm, one to pick on its “fanboyz.” This year’s WWDC delivered a host of new goodies, from upgraded MacBook Air and Mac Pro models to the latest Apple OS releases, iOS 7, and OS X Mavericks (10.9). The latest OS X version institutes a new naming convention, which many thought to be “box office flops,” since Chasing Mavericks was a dud of a surfer flick last year. But no, it’s a location name—a beach, in fact.

Both iOS 7 and Mavericks will be available in final form this fall, but betas will start floating around the Internet in mass quantities starting next week as developer-only “beta time” runs out. As the firm did with the new Mac Pro, in the final push before an OS release Apple tallies feedback from developers and early adopters to refine the package. You can get complete technical specifications for iOS 7 and OS X Mavericks from Apple, but we’ll tell you what you need to know in plain English. We’ll start today with Mavericks and get to iOS 7 in the next blog or two. Let’s get to it!

Mavericks (not the movie!)

Shoring up its green bona fides, Apple retooled OS X 10.9 with power-optimizing features that reduce CPU use, compress memory, and put your other software programs into “App Nap” when not needed. Apple has supported collaborative use since before you could rent iMac models, and has finally made using a second (and third) display simple—you get a menu bar and dock on all screens, and can drag assets from one to another even with full-screen apps running. Some tweaks to the Finder are in the “took you long enough” category, like the ability to combine multiple open windows into a single one with tabs (like some browsers). Another is a minor “yay” moment: You can now assign certain tags (Draft, Important, etc.) when saving files, and use them to locate others similarly tagged.

Apple’s browser, Safari, is part of Mavericks, too, and got a decent reworking. A new sidebar now houses your bookmarks, the Reading List, and the Shared Links section that has OSX-Cloud-KeychainTwitter and LinkedIn updates (only from people you follow) with web links they send you. The new iCloud Keychain will save, encrypt, and automatically enter passwords for the websites you visit on all your Apple devices, plus give you highly secure password suggestions when you register for a new one. In your screen’s upper right corner, Mavericks’ new “push notification” will display pop-up messages for particular apps, some of which you can manage without launching a program. The Maps app is now able to send directions directly to the lock screen of an iPad rental or iPhone, and tighter ties to the Calendar app means it will calculate when you need to leave to make your appointments on time, based on current weather, your location, traffic reports, and the time of day.

Work in progress? Always!

Science and technology are never “finished” since we never stop learning and improving our tools, from the Stone Age through the Iron Age and into the Cyber Age. Humans are like that (certainly you’ve noticed). The humans at Apple, even without their iconic co-founder at the helm, still seem to be doing the right things, with enough “insanely great” products and services to remain a key arbiter of tech and style. OS X 10.9 Mavericks may just be the hippest among the new offerings. We’ll keep you posted—count on it!

Count on CRE, too, every time you need industry-leading render farms and other tools for high-tech heavy lifting. And call us when you want to put your best corporate face on a few big screens, and situate them in a stylish expo floor space created with our great trade show convention rentals. Call (877) 266-7725, send a message, or visit our Quick Rental Quote page and we’ll find the precise solutions to your unique challenges. We’re here to help—so call now!

June 20th, 2013

Those trying to balance progress with respect for the Earth should be gratified to discover that a steadily increasing fraction of their personal carbon footprints can be eliminated by switching to alternative energy sources. While “grid parity” remains elusive, millions of homes are already powered by photovoltaic systems, and much progress has been made recently in the construction of solar panels. In fact, there have been enough advances in solar technology that millions of small devices can now be powered entirely off the grid. Let’s take a look at some of these back-to-the-future solar chargers.

fuse10w-solarThe Fuse 10W Solar Laptop Charger from Voltaic gets the prize for longest name, but also gets an “attaboy” for being a futuristic flexible panel. Spread it across a tent in camp, or wrap it around a backpack while hiking, and every hour of direct sun gets you half an hour of MacBook time. Naturally, the Fuse can keep your tablets, handheld games, and other devices charged and ready, too.

Goal Zero solar kitGoal Zero wants to be known as “the solar charger for the adventurer,” and makes a range of products to satisfy both amateurs and pros. The company donated solar chargers to victims of Hurricane Sandy who had lost power, bringing them light, heat, and outside communications (Goal Zero models resuscitate dead smartphones instantly and fully charge them in three hours). Unfold one of the durable solar panel kits to charge your rechargeable devices, or pack it all up and use the built-in LED light on most models to illuminate the dark trails back to camp after an all-day hike.

The GoMadic's Solar SystemSunVolt model comes from Gomadic, a new firm born as a Kickstarter project. The device is somewhat larger than the others in this roundup, with panels that fold-and-pack into a carrying case. With those larger panels and beefier specs, of course, you get plugged-in-the-wall charging speeds for phones, tablet PCs, laptop rentals, and cameras.

SolarMio-kindle-chargerThe nifty little SolarMio Kindle cover is one “personal solar product” that tries to do one thing and do it well. If they charge their e-readers in the daytime sun, Kindle users can read through the night. In addition to charging duties, the SolarMio offers energy storage, as well—up to 50 hours’ worth. That’s a one-trick pony with a big trick.

Joos OJoosOrange Solar Chargerrange chargers are small, 8×6-inch panels that will give you double the talk time of the charge (an hour of sun nets two hours of phone time). But you don’t have to limit your stored-up energy to phones alone, so you can keep your iPad rental, camera, and Bluetooth headpiece all charged up, too. Bonus: A free app keeps you apprised of how much power is being stored during charging, and tracks usage, too.

If you take media reporting on energy issues with a grain (or 1,000) of salt, and remain skeptical of marketing claims dressed up in scientistic verbiage, you can adjust smoothly and gradually to “emergent” technologies that promise a better future. There are occasional bolts out of the blue, this is true, but much of our tech progress comes from plodding along, step by step, and working both harder and smarter. More often than not, that’s what hastens the future, after all.

At CRE we are future-oriented, too—but our primary concern is what you need today, and how we can tend to your unique needs and challenges right now. Whether it’s render farms to push that post project to completion, or an LCD touchscreen monitor rental to entice people to your conference booth, we are ready to help. Call (877) 266-7725, send us a message, or use the Quick Rental Quote form to get what you need right away. We are here, and we’re here for you! Call now!

May 30th, 2013

So much serious stuff going on! Microsoft yo-yo’ing up and down, Apple execs in a strange mood, more than the usual political nonsense, and unseasonably warm weather on the West Coast. We need something… cool! And one of the coolest things we do on the CRE blog is talk about cool gadgets. Without further ado, away we go!

Bluetooth grows up

Bluewave BluetoothThe Bluewave Bluetooth Audio Receiver works with any Bluetooth device and your 30-pin, Apple-ready speaker dock to “jailbreak your speakers.” The small device plugs into Apple-spec 30-pin docks that are found on new and used speakers, audio gear, and our original iPad rental. Because of the Bluewave, any phone or device with Bluetooth can send music to a formerly Apple-only speaker unit.

The Bluewave has a great trick up its sleeve, too. You don’t even need to mess with any switches and buttons if you set it up to start streaming when you come into range (<30 feet). And you can use it with smartphones, tablet PC rentals, iPads, and anything at all that has Bluetooth, whose latest stereo versions are much more useful and tune-worthy than the original monaural ones. Keep an eye out: Bluetooth is going to be showing up everywhere.

Clickin’ and growin’

Click & Grow has provided another truly great, green moment in technology: its hands-off electronic “smartpot” grows plants without human involvement (except set-up). You need no knowledge whatsoever about gardening, as every step is managed by “smart” technology based on the same microprocessor technology as in your iMac. Click & Grow’s software contains all the necessary information to deliver the right amount of air, water, and fertilizer at the right times, all according to a particular plant’s requirements.

The Click & Grow system has two vital components:

  1. The flowerpot includes batteries, sensors, circuits, a pump, and water storage. It does not have the seeds or a plant, nutrients, or the plant-management software.
  2. The plant cartridge contains the seeds, nutrients, and custom software for growing the particular plant in that cartridge.

Click & Grow brings technology and plants together

To some this product represents the natural extension of technology into nature, while others call it wholly unnatural. Admittedly, office equipment rentals would be out of place in the forest, but Click & Grow’s technology works the other way ’round, bringing the green inside where it’s needed. With no worrying about over-watering, no guessing about nutrients, and no doubt that your plants are getting just what they need, Click & Grow and its smart technology just might make more homes and offices a healthy green… literally.

Dessert for everyone!

The Raspberry Pi may be the size of a credit card, but it’s a capable “nanocomputer” that can produce spreadsheets, do word processing, and play games. It plugs into analog or digital TVs, as well as keyboards and other peripherals, via RCA video and HDMI out, audio line out, and USB. The 700MHz CPU, capable GPU, and HDMI mean you can play full HD, high-definition, 1080p video. The computer comes without an enclosure, and unlike any computer rental at CRE, the Raspberry Pi boots from a SecureDigital (SD) card, which Raspberry Pi, nanocomputeroffers storage memory, too (everything over 2GB, up to a 32GB card). USB devices can also store files, but the Raspberry Pi must boot from SD, which can be purchased pre-loaded with one of the three supported Linux distros, plus other software.

Of course this is not for your home or office, unless you’re a hobbyist or programmer. The Raspberry Pi Foundation wants “to see it being used by kids all over the world to learn programming,” similar to the goals of the “One Laptop per Child” project that puts self-powered, WiFi-capable PCs in the hands of girls in Afghanistan, for one very good thing. The Raspberry Pi Foundation, which has an incredible volunteer support community, has plans to ship one unit, free, to a Third World end-user for each one purchased. The two models are $25 and $35, with Ethernet and a second USB port on the pricier one.

One call or e-mail connects you with an expert Account Executive, who works with you to develop unique, effective solutions for all of your business-critical challenges. If you know what you need, of course, simply visit the Quick Rental Quote page and take care of business right now—24/7/365!

March 18th, 2013

Due to the nature of our business, CRE has a much bigger “battery footprint” than many other fBatteriesirms—think of our iPad rental inventory alone! Today’s Lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries power more and more devices daily, while depending for their production on ever-decreasing supplies of such mined metal ores as cobalt. In fact, 30% of the world’s total cobalt supply is already used in battery manufacturing. Clearly, the world needs more green energy of every kind, and recent breakthroughs in nanotechnology should hasten the arrival of an honest-to-goodness, paradigm-shifting green battery. Here are three potential game-changers.

Plant power

A natural plant dye extracted from the roots of the madder plant, purpurin is the unlikely basis for an entirely new kind of “green” battery. Chemists and researchers from Rice University, City College of New York, and the U.S. Army Research Laboratory reported on a purpurin-powered, non-toxic, sustainable lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery in the journal Nature‘s online, open access publication Scientific Reports in December 2012.

Research continues into other organic molecules’ potential for batteries, but the work is far more complicated than the simple, high-school-level chemistry process for purpurin. An affordable, long-lasting (say, 12-18 hours of movies on tablet PC rentals), and “seriously green” Li-ion battery is still a few years down the line, factoring in time to optimize purpurin’s efficiency and/or synthesize similar compounds. It is “definitely going to happen,” say the Rice University scientists.

Power walk

Among Physics World magazine’s top innovations of 2012 is a breakthrough battery that charges itself. Developed at the Georgia Institute of Technology (GIT), the battery converts kinetic energy (motion) into chemical energy. You could produce energy for your MacBook, camera, or phone by walking with the battery in your shoe, for instance. We’ve blogged about similar technologies, but until this new approach was developed, kinetic energy (motion) would be converted into electricity first, then into chemical energy for storage. The new method converts motion directly into stored chemical energy.

This new technology is five times more efficient than previous systems, significantly shrinking the size and weight of the manufactured battery. It can easily be used in all types of devices, and its (projected) super long life makes it perfect for motherboard duty (you know that your iMac or PC has a battery or two, right?). The new battery doesn’t generate much electricity yet, but researchers claim the first retail-ready product will be roughly equivalent to today’s 1.5V units.

Jammin’ with jelly

Ian Ward, a professor at the UK’s University of Leeds, has invented a new polymer gel (a.k.a. jelly) that will enable the creation of a new kind of lithium battery—lighter, cheaper, and more efficient than existing types. A simple, low-cost process turns the gel into flexible, thin film that will lie between a battery’s electrodes, dispensing with the usual multiple cells separated by polymer film. Ward told IT Pro magazine that the weight and size reductions alone made the new technology a winner, but mentioned two additional benefits—the new batteries are safer than the old ones, and cost about 10% as much to make.

Since they have no liquid electrolytes, the new batteries can’t explode and thus can’t start any fires. Even a first-rate, “certified green” firm like Hewlett-Packard can get blindsided by battery trouble. In 2010 the company recalled over 50,000 batteries after a few burst into flames (and into the headlines). The electrolyte liquid is what you see burning in YouTube videos of “flaming PCs,” so replacing it with the new polymer gel will vastly improve safety. Eventually, of course, all of this R&D will lead to safe, cheap, all-solid-state batteries.

CRE has everything you need, from audio visual (AV) equipment rentals to the high-tech gear you need for post-production. The solutions to your challenges—on-site, on the road, or at a conference—are all right here. Call an experienced Account Executive at (877) 266-7725, send us a message, or (if you know what you need) visit our Quick Rental Quote page. We are always ready to help you!

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