Solar plane flies nonstop for a week

We recently reported on the historic flight of the Solar Impulse, the first solar-powered plane to fly through the night. Now another barrier has been broken. The Zephyr solar plane has flown nonstop for seven days.

Unlike the Solar Impulse, which carried a pilot, the Zephyr is an unmanned drone built by the UK defense firm Qinetiq. Drones have seen extensive service in Afghanistan and Iraq in recent years but are hampered by the need to return for refueling and thus losing sight of targets. Drones that never need to land have an obvious advantage. The civilian potential is obvious too, with researchers already thinking up applications for using them for scientific observation.

This development also marks another step forward for potential solar-powered commercial flight. The Zephyr has solar cells along its 22.5 meter (74 ft) wingspan that drive the propellers and fill batteries that are robust enough to power the plane from sunset to sunrise. Will we one day see solar-powered commercial flights? It may be a long way off, but considering the rapid pace of technological change, it’s unwise to say that anything is impossible.

The Zephyr is still in the air near the US Army’s Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona and its support team plans to leave it flying for another week.

Verizon Wireless HTC Droid Incredible review

In this (brief) review, we’ll show off the Verizon Droid Incredible. The Incredible is the Verizon answer to the Nexus One – both phones have very similar specifications, but Verizon managed to add a couple of tasty treats to their device.

On the outside, the Droid Incredible is a sleek looking Android powered phone – a red speaker grille, flush optical joystick (instead of the trackball found on the Nexus One) and a side mounted MicroUSB jack (more on that later).

By far the biggest difference between the Nexus One and the Droid Incredible is the addition of the HTC Sense interface. While Google opted for a pretty plain vanilla user interface on the Nexus One, Verizon got a huge serving of eye candy.

One of the best design features of the Droid Incredible is found on the rear – by layering the back cover, the appearance is created of a very thin phone with a bulge where the battery is. It is actually a very nice effect. On the back is also the camera lens and a dual LED flash.

Inside the Droid Incredible is a 1GHz Snapdragon processor, 8GB of memory, a MicroSD memory card slot and EVDO Revision A support on the Verizon CDMA 3G network. The phone offers local connectivity through Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

The support for Verizon is important – because it is both a blessing and a curse. The blessing comes from the fantastic coverage in the US – seriously, I’ve taken this phone all over the country, and it has not let me down once. Even in an area with zero GSM coverage, I was happily surfing away on 3G speeds on Verizon.

The curse comes when you take a CDMA phone to Europe. Unless you invest in a global CDMA phone with GSM support, you’ll be stuck finding Wi-Fi in most foreign countries.

In addition to the HTC Sense interface, Verizon added a fine lineup of other apps – Quickoffice, Skype Mobile, VCast Tones, My Verizon (account management) . In fact, Verizon has such a large assortment of their own Android apps, that they have their own section in the Android Marketplace, along with some other hand picked Android apps.

(Photo taken with the Droid Incredible camera)

The 8 megapixel auto focus camera in the Droid Incredible is pretty good – colors in daylight are bit washed out, but that is sadly the price you pay on most camera phones. Video quality is acceptable, but the phone won’t replace your HD camcorder any time soon.

Some of the other goodies I previously mentioned are fantastic for travelers – the Droid Incredible supports video output through its USB connector. You’ll need to invest in a $30 video cable, but once you plug the phone into your TV, you’ll be able to watch movies on a large screen, providing some decent in-room entertainment. Another nice bonus, is an FM radio, though you’ll need to keep your headphones plugged into the phone as they act as the antenna.

All in all, one of the things that make the Droid Incredible, well, incredible, is the coverage from Verizon. Granted, unlike on a GSM based 3G phone, you won’t get voice and data at the same time, but to be honest – despite the TV commercials attacking CDMA networks, I can’t even remember the last time (or any time) that I was on the phone and had to access data. Coming from the Nexus One, I also found that the design of the Incredible was “cutting edge” (even though I hate that term).

As the choices of Android phones grow every week, it is becoming increasingly hard to pick the best one – but in my opinion, the Droid Incredible offers the best of all worlds – a compact phone, great user interface and fantastic battery life.

The Droid Incredible is available from your local Verizon Wireless dealer, or most online mobile phone retailers. Prices start at just under $200 on a new two year agreement.

Griffin Travel Stand for iPod and iPhone reviewed

The Griffin Technology Travel Stand for iPod and iPhone is one of the the smartest little gadgets I’ve reviewed in a long time. Despite not consisting of much more than a small case and rubber headphone winder, this product fulfills multiple tasks in one.

When closed, it is a great case for your headphones – keeping them wound around the included rubber wrapper. But when you open it up, this little marvel becomes a brilliant little movie watching stand for your device. Despite the name, the travel stand works perfectly with almost any player on the market – including most mobile phones and small media tablets.

How good is the Travel Stand for iPod and iPhone? Well, when I first saw it, it made me furious. Furious because I didn’t invent it. The whole thing is ridiculously simply, yet so perfectly executed.

Headphones store neatly inside the stand when not in use.

And the whole thing folds up into a neat little headphone case.

The viewing angle is perfect, and rubber feat on the bottom prevent it from sliding around on your airline tray table.

Best of all, the Griffin Travel Stand for iPod and iPhone retails for just $14.99 (though I have already seen it at the local Walmart for under $10!).

If you have ever struggled with watching a movie on your flight, this is one $15 you won’t regret investing – even if it is just to keep your headphones protected. You’ll find this brilliant little product at or your local electronics retail store.

Google Goggles helps you explore the world with your phone

Ever needed a quick translation of a foreign menu? Wanted to identify an unknown landmark? A new app called Google Goggles offers mobile users highly useful way to decipher the world around us using the camera on your mobile phone. This new service for Android users makes it remarkably simple to find quick translations of foreign languages, identify landmarks or even pick a bottle of wine, all rolled into one.

To use Google Goggles, all you need to do is launch the app and take a photo using your phone’s camera. See a word on the menu in Paris that you don’t recognize? Skip the guidebook and send a picture. You’ll be given a translation right on your phone. Or maybe you’re walking around and want to know more about a building or landmark. Send a photo of it and you’ll be delivered an explanation. It’s a new way of searching the world visually, tapping into Google’s vast database and the increasing power of mobile devices. Much like augmented reality and location services, mobile devices now allow travelers the ability to make the real world ‘clickable’ – almost as if you were surfing the web.

Although Google Goggles is a tremendous leap forward for travelers, it’s still not universal to all mobile phone users. To download the app, you have to be an owner of one of Google’s compatible Android devices (sorry iPhone owners) like the Nexus One or Droid running version 1.6 or above. If that’s you, you can find Google Goggles by searching and downloading it from the Android Marketplace. The recognition software is also not perfect. The technology is still in its infancy so don’t expect every image you send in to be recognized. Still, the concept of Google Goggles is exciting one for travelers. For anyone with a mobile phone, a whole new range of services is on the horizon.

Blog it or Facebook it or Tweet it or … – Road trip tip

Let friends and family share in your road trip adventure by posting details along the way via your blog, Facebook, Twitter or other social media site. People at home are curious about your adventures, and seeing your update may trigger a memory or suggestion they have to improve your trip.

With a smartphone such as the Apple iPhone, Motorola Droid or Research in Motion’s BlackBerry, it’s a snap to post a status update of your trip or take and upload a photo or video of a roadside attraction. Smartphone Facebook apps and apps such as Bloglive make it easy to upload your content.

Of course, don’t do any of this while driving. Wait until you’re stopped, or have a passenger do the posting.