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Software Hardware Science

A Running Shoe For Agent 86? 356

manganese4 writes "The New York Times (free reg. req.) is reporting on a new shoe from Adidas that contains a ~10KHz chip capable of changing the shoe's characteristics to meet the runner's need. From the article: 'Adidas executives say the shoe is no gadget-dependent gimmick... Each second, a sensor in the heel can take up to 20,000 readings and the embedded electronic brain can make 10,000 calculations, directing a tiny electric motor to change the shoe. The goal is to make the shoe adjust to changing conditions and the runner's particular style while in use. The shoes will have push-button controls, light-emitting diodes to display settings and an instruction manual on a CD-ROM that will advise wearers on, among other things, how to change the battery after every 100 hours of use.' I wonder if the CPU can be overclocked?"
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A Running Shoe For Agent 86?

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  • Yeah (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 06, 2004 @02:32AM (#9071091)
    But does it run linux?
  • Imagine... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Unipuma ( 532655 ) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @02:33AM (#9071093)
    .. the stench of a Beowulf cluster of these things....
  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @02:33AM (#9071094) Homepage
    You can't tune the thing while running? That is so lame.
  • by AlaskanUnderachiever ( 561294 ) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @02:33AM (#9071095) Homepage
    Wow! The durability of a computer in a shoe!

    Does anyone else thing it's a bad idea to throw these sorts of components into something that's going to take a few hundred thousand 100kg (or more depending on speed/weight/height) impacts?

  • by sn0wcrash ( 223995 ) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @02:33AM (#9071096)
    These running fanatics have a screw loose. They spend a fortune on these fancy shoes looking to improve their perfomance. Yet they always get beaten by some guy from Africa that's never even owned a pair of shoes.
  • Sport Legality? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Renraku ( 518261 ) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @02:34AM (#9071101) Homepage
    In things like track competitions or marathons, should such 'active' measures be allowed? I mean, what if I had a pair of smart shoes that were attached to a motorcycle...
    • by Concerned Onlooker ( 473481 ) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @03:16AM (#9071267) Homepage Journal
      ...what if I had a pair of smart shoes that were attached to a motorcycle...

      Then you'd probably be dragged to your death.

    • Re:Sport Legality? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by rizzo420 ( 136707 ) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @03:24AM (#9071302) Homepage Journal
      when it comes down to it, the shoe is not going to make the difference between teh winner and the loser. in fact, these shoes would probably be more of a hinderance in a race than anything else. with a motor and all that other stuff, they're gonna weigh more. it won't be all that much more, but enough to make a difference. plus peopel generally have specific shoes for training and shoes for racing. these would be more of a training thing than a racing thing since training can be harder on your feet/body than the actual race. they don't actively improve your performance like other sporting equipment, they actively improve your comfort. yes i realize comfort can improve your performance, but you're gonna want something very lightweight for the race itself.
      • no, they can help your performance, because they can help you set your pace.

        Races already ban things devices like headphones [although that's more for safety, the need to hear people coming around you].

        • Re:Sport Legality? (Score:3, Interesting)

          by rizzo420 ( 136707 )
          the article says nothing about helping set your pace. the comfort of a shoe does not help one set their pace. i used to set my pace through my breathing, my shoes, no matter how worn out, had nothing to do with my pace. i don't see how a continuously changing shoe will help you.
    • Re:Sport Legality? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Renraku ( 518261 )
      This wouldn't be such a big thing at this point. It would give a little advantage, but the best would probably still be the best. The problem is that this would open a whole new can of worms. Then you would have judges spending their time approving or disapproving other active measures as well, and less runners actually in it for the spirit of the run.
  • Human feet (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ObviousGuy ( 578567 ) <> on Thursday May 06, 2004 @02:34AM (#9071102) Homepage Journal
    Human feet have thousands upon thousands of sensor sites and they feed back information to the brain which can process all the information in parallel and recognize even the slightest change in environment and adjust accordingly.

    So bare feet are better than these new shoes.
    • by beeplet ( 735701 ) <> on Thursday May 06, 2004 @02:55AM (#9071192) Journal
      Quite true, but given the choice between having my shoes adjust to stepping on a rock or having my feet do it the old-fashioned way by sending thousands of pain signals to my brain, I think I'll go with the shoe...
    • Re:Human feet (Score:5, Informative)

      by tuxette ( 731067 ) * <tuxette@gmail . c om> on Thursday May 06, 2004 @02:59AM (#9071204) Homepage Journal
      You're in on something there. There are quite a few elite runners who train/compete barefoot. For example, Abebe Bikila [] won his first Olympic marathon running barefoot, and broke the world record.

      Here's another interesting site regarding barefoot running/marathoning [].

    • Re:Human feet (Score:3, Informative)

      by shird ( 566377 )
      And do they adjust by giving you more support under the arch of your foot, or increasing the 'suspension' under your heel? You might adjust the way you plant your foot down, but you cant dynamically physically change the support around your foot.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      But walking barefoot is against the very spirit of the US Constitution! Dozens of American shoe factory bosses have invested many years of their time, and billions of dollars of other people's money, in creating a product that fulfils the ultimate objective of what a shoe is supposed to be: a source of revenue for the company directors. If a person goes barefoot, then they are denying those shoe company directors their birthright, which is to make as much money as possible!

      Shoes are necessary to protec
  • by fuqqer ( 545069 ) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @02:34AM (#9071103) Homepage
    Rather than kids tying another's laces together, well have them hacking in and turning someone soles rock hard for the day.
  • by Lord Bitman ( 95493 ) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @02:35AM (#9071106) Homepage
    Couldnt they have talked to Swatch or something? Why the hell should a running shoe need a battery? I mean, that's the whole point.. you RUN in them! Kinetic energy, right there! FREE for the taking!
  • Funny maths? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MrIrwin ( 761231 ) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @02:35AM (#9071107) Journal
    A 10KHz chip sounds like a nice low power solution for a running shoe.

    Assuming that is the clock rate, 20,000 readings and 10,000 calculations per second does sound a bit excessive, especcialy as the calculations must involve at least 2 readings.

  • Google link. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 06, 2004 @02:35AM (#9071108)
  • what a gimmick (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kaltkalt ( 620110 ) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @02:35AM (#9071110)
    Please. I mean, this is like saying the Reebok Pump was "analog technology capable of generating an infinite number of support positions." GIMMICK. Nothing more. But get a famous basketball player to endorse it, charge $200 for it, and it'll fly off the shelves.
    • Re:what a gimmick (Score:4, Informative)

      by glaHHg ( 468427 ) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @02:47AM (#9071165) Journal
      Tell me about it. Here's all the detailed info on what it actually does, straight out of the article:

      alters its physical properties
      would change to your different needs
      changes its characteristics
      adapts its cushioning

      Hmmm so wtf does it actually do?? Looks like the same thing the pump does but without the pump.
      • I agree that it is somewhat of a gimmick, but it does do something different than the pump.. IIRC, the pump was about support in the upper part of the shoe-- you could not adjust the amount of cushioning in the sole, which makes a big difference to runners.
    • But the company says it's not a gimmick! It's right there in the story. Do you mean that everything in the intarweb may not be true?
      • Here on /. we assume that the article will be filled with lies, and as a result, don't bother with the article in the first place.

        It all makes perfect sense.
    • Just think... In 20 years we'll be able to buy $1000 shoes that make us feel barefoot.
    • Re:what a gimmick (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mlu035 ( 460042 )
      IIRC, the Pump was all about the fit of the trainer, as it inflated the tongue area to better surround the upper part of the foot. It was an alternative to laces was it not? This sounds more like changing the dynamics of the sole, which I can see being useful on alternating surface races (cross country perhaps), but not much else.

      As a semi-serious runner, I think it will probably not sell among anyone who is already clued up about the type of footwear they require until Adidas can prove equivocally that it
  • Sport Legal? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Intocabile ( 532593 ) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @02:35AM (#9071111)
    I've only ever seen passive electronics in sports equipment; this shoe won't be legal in most professional sports.
  • Crash? (Score:5, Funny)

    by BigZaphod ( 12942 ) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @02:36AM (#9071113) Homepage
    So if it crashes, do you trip and fall? Boy, that'd suck on stairs...
    • Re:Crash? (Score:3, Funny)

      by prockcore ( 543967 )
      So if it crashes, do you trip and fall? Boy, that'd suck on stairs...

      Think of it as a built-in bitchslap from the manufacturer.. for being stupid enough to buy this thing.
  • Frankly, I'd rather have a "Cone of silence" to put certain people in...

    And since phone booths are going out of style, I guess we need a cellphone that can also act as a hidden trapdoor to our lair?
  • by nacturation ( 646836 ) <> on Thursday May 06, 2004 @02:38AM (#9071121) Journal
    So... a 10KHz chip can make 10,000 calculations per second? Sure, as long as all those calculations take only 1 clock cycle each. And what good is a sensor that can take 20,000 samples per second if the CPU isn't powerful enough to even make use of all of them?

    Honestly, what's the point? If the goal is to change the shoe characteristics, why not include a little adjustable screw so the wearer can manually change various tensions? This sounds like a lousy solution in search of a problem, and a badly marketed one at that.
    • RTFA -- The article doesn't say 10MHz, only the /. story does, and that may not be entirely accurate.

      10,000 calculations does not mean 10MHz, at least, not in marketing speak.

      Consider the average NYT reader's brainpower: A calculation is the number of times the CPU comes up with results, not how many clock cycles it takes to get to that output.

      That being said, the chip is likely highly optimized to do exactly one thing.

      Think back to the RISC debate... But in this case, you only need a handful of instru
  • login stuff (Score:4, Informative)

    by Errtu76 ( 776778 ) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @02:38AM (#9071124) Journal
    for all who don't/can't register:
    u/p: nytslashdot
  • by Big Nothing ( 229456 ) <> on Thursday May 06, 2004 @02:41AM (#9071137)
    Of all items of clothing, said Rob Enderle, the shoe is a logical one to be a focus of wearable technology. Unlike articles of clothing that must be washed or cleaned, shoes present a more stable place to add useful electronics, he said.

    Mr. Enderle has obviously never been in the vicinity of _my_ shoes.

  • yeah but (Score:4, Funny)

    by schroet ( 244506 ) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @02:45AM (#9071155)
    how long before you have to PATCH them?

    shameless, I know :p
  • wrong icon (Score:4, Funny)

    by chrispy666 ( 519278 ) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @02:47AM (#9071168)
    Geez, the ONE time the foot icon would actually make sense, it is not even used by /. editors...
    I guess I know where to stick my foot next time...
  • The New York Times (free reg. req.) is reporting on a new condom from that contains a ~10KHz chip capable of changing the condom's characteristics to meet the user's need. From the article: ' executives say the condom is no gadget-dependent gimmick... Each second, a sensor in the tip can take up to 20,000 readings and the embedded electronic brain can make 10,000 calculations, directing a tiny electric motor to change the shape. The goal is to make the condom adjust to changing conditions
  • Obligitory reference to the movie "The computer wore tennis shoes"
  • Sweet (Score:3, Interesting)

    by blincoln ( 592401 ) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @02:48AM (#9071173) Homepage Journal
    If these have LEDs now, I'm sure the next 11 years will give researchers plenty of time to add power laces [] and a voice chip that sounds like Stephen Hawking's.
  • 1. Change the battery every 100hrs????
    2. Change the battery every 100hrs????
    3. Change the battery every 100hrs????
    4. Change the battery every 100hrs????
    5. Change the battery every 100hrs????
    6. Change the battery every 100hrs????
    7. Change the battery every 100hrs????
    8. Change the battery every 100hrs????
    9. Change the battery every 100hrs????
    10. Ahh screw it...

    On another note, if Longhorn is gonna need a TB of disk space, what the hell will my shoes be running in 2008? I mean, does it really take t
  • motor? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by utexaspunk ( 527541 ) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @02:59AM (#9071206)
    tiny electric motor? with a drivetrain? that wouldn't be my first thought... seems like they could make the sole out of something spongelike containing magnetorheological fluids [] and some electomagnets to vary the stiffness and sponginess
    • Re:motor? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by drinkypoo ( 153816 )
      Electromagnets consume a pretty fair amount of current in most cases. The question would be (to my way of thinking) whether the mashing of your feet coming down is going to mix the stuff enough to where you're going to spend a significant amount of energy just maintaining state.
  • by NTmatter ( 589153 ) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @03:00AM (#9071211) Homepage
    they ask "Where do you want to go today?" when you boot (shoe?) up. This message has been brought to you by MicroShoe FooTware.
  • by MoFoQ ( 584566 ) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @03:00AM (#9071212)
    we're still stuck with replacing batteries.

    if the processor doesn't use alot of power, I'd think if they include some sort of kinetic power generator, that it won't need batteries.
  • GPS? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Lord_Dweomer ( 648696 ) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @03:02AM (#9071217) Homepage
    What would be cool is if you could hook this up to GPS. You could chart your runs and develop statistics, such as how many steps per minute, etc. These shoes could be great for people trying to gather data on runners.

  • Each second, a sensor in the heel can take up to 20,000 readings and the embedded electronic brain can make 10,000 calculations, directing a tiny electric motor to change the shoe. The goal is to make the shoe adjust to changing conditions and the runner's particular style while in use.

    20000 readings per second seems like more than enough... but the article makes no mention of how fast the motor can respond to that information. Does the shoe adjust each fraction of a second, changing as the foot hits the
  • by kc8jhs ( 746030 ) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @03:09AM (#9071245)
    Didn't we learn anything from Wallace and Grommit in The Wrong Trousers, []?

    -Mikey P
  • battery life (Score:3, Insightful)

    by deadboy2000 ( 739605 ) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @03:11AM (#9071254)
    100 hours of non-rechargable battery life?? That's like two week's worth of use! How many times do you think a user is going to bother changing the battery before giving up and just using them like any other shoe?
    • 100 hours of non-rechargable battery life?? That's like two week's worth of use!
      These are running shoes, not wandering around the office shoes. If you use your running shoes 50 hours a week... well, I won't say it because you could probably kick me into a pulp.
  • by deft ( 253558 ) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @03:16AM (#9071266) Homepage
    has optimization for stomping on ground while playing warcraft, and then quickly switching to walkjing to fridge for mountain dew. also takes into consideration extra fatness.
  • I wonder if the CPU can be overclocked?

    more importantly, when do i get to play bejeweled on the built-in communications device?

  • by zakezuke ( 229119 ) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @03:32AM (#9071327)
    As soon as we start making inteligent shoes theologians will spend endless hours debating whether or not these shoes have souls.

  • by Masa ( 74401 ) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @03:45AM (#9071376) Journal
    "an instruction manual on a CD-ROM that will advise wearers on, among other things, how to change the battery"

    So, does these shoes have a CD-ROM-drive built-in or how one is going to use the manual on the road? Because, it would suck quite royally ass if the BSOD strikes while running at the woods and you have to try to figure out, how to reboot your shoes. And what if the batteries run out? The only thing you can do with the manual is to wave it and hope someone equipped with pair of AAA-batteries (or whatever the shoes are using) and a laptop would see you (a laptop is required because the manual contains the instructions, how to change batteries).

    These shoes will bring us to a totally new level of complexity of having some exercise.
    • Honestly i doubt the effects of any of this "high technology 10KHz chip" stuff would be noticeable to anybody using the shoes. It's just a gimmick and if they crash or break or whatever they won't suddenly go rock solid or anything. That'd require some kind of extremely clever membrane technology. Not a dumb pump with a vibe motor powering it.
    • You can't be serious... can you?

      It's a fookin' SHOE. Not a powered cement block. The person wearing the shoe will still be able to move about while wearing them - they just won't have whatever special "feature" the enhancements add.

      Furthermore, do you seriously think the manual will be needed? How many people do you know that RTFM? I know one, and that's myself (at least in the real world). Then, only when I need to. I seriously doubt the interface for a running shoe is terribly difficult to figure out by
  • Modifying the characteristics of the show seems questionable..

    I think a lot of runners would find sensor data gathered from the shoe to be more valuable. It could help with performance improvements, to record your exact pace throughout a run. It could help to diagnose or even prevent injuries - if it could tell by the impact sensors that you are pronating this could help a lot. A big part of curing/preventing running injuries is diagnosing the problem.

    Combine the sensor data with GPS tracking, and you'
  • by ValourX ( 677178 ) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @03:55AM (#9071413) Homepage

    That's roughly every ten days. Can you imagine changing your shoe batteries every ten days? And I thought it was bad changing my mouse batteries every four months...

    • by Malc ( 1751 )
      Most runners don't get 100 hours out of their shoes. I'm a slow runner and I do just over 10 km/hr... that would mean running over 1,000 km on them. Faster runners would get closer to 2,000 km. That's really really unrealistic. I got just over 700 km out of my last pair of shoes before my IT bands started getting sore at the hips on anything over 8 km (10 milers became murderous). Mind you, runners who aren't trying to increase their mileage can often get more out of them, but not that much that changi
  • The best part of the article was that they skinned a furby. It's nice to see that science has finally found a way around the animal testing ban.

    I hope they did it while it was still alive.

    If they'll put a sticker on the shoe saying that many furbies WERE harmed in the making of this product, I'll go buy one right away.
  • We had gang bangers killing each other to steal their sneakers.

    Now we've gotta worry about 1337 hackers using our sneakers for nefarious means. Could you imagine a war mod on these sneakers? They'd have to call it "War-Jogging" or somesuch.

  • Now if they had wireless and GPS they could track your every move, which would presumably be back and forth between your house and a store that sells batteries.
  • Running barefoot (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pkplex ( 535744 ) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @04:09AM (#9071448) Homepage
    IMO the best way to run is in bare feet, ie, no shoes. That probably sounds stupid to most people, but when your feet are bare, you get lots of feedback and built in reflexes from the nerves in your feet.

    One importaint peice of feedback you get, is to NOT LAND ON YOUR HEELS. Your legs and feet are not designed for you land on your heels ( but shoe companys and podaitrists would like you to think so ). Instead, bare feet teaches you to land on the your forefoot ( eg, the area around the balls of your feet, just behind your toes ).

    A forefoot strike has advantages over a heel strike, In breif;

    Much less chance of injury ( eg shin splints, runners knee, etc ). However, during the first two weeks of learning to run with a proper forefoot strike style, I had sore calf musles. This was the 'numb, lactic acid, ive done more than I am used to' type soreness. This is something your calfs get used to quickly, just like how your biceps grow if you do bicep curls. The main reason for less inury is because the energy absorbed from each foot landing is stored/absorbed into muscles, rather than being driven up thru your bones and joints ( eg, ankle, knee, hip, and back ) as the case with heel strikes.

    It stores energy form the landing, and releases it as your body moves over your foot plant.

    It allows you to run with minimal vertial motion in the torso area, if your knees are bent when your foot touches the ground. As the body goes over the footplant, the leg straigtens, which keeps the torso in the same vertial position.

    And as a result, you end up running very efficently. One obvious thing about running properly ( with a forefoot strike ) is that you become very very quiet, eg, almost completely silent in the feet department, quite the opposite of the comparitive racket most runners make with the enourmous heel striking boots.

    Anyway, I think that the best running shoe is one which is simply like a protective layer of skin over your foot, IE, as close to running in bare feet as possible.

    And the best way to run is in bare feet, but in rare cases ( or when your just starting out ), bare feet is not always practical ( eg, sharp gravel, areas that are likely to have hidden sharp things ), but 80% of places I find I can run barefoot with no problems.

    If you have injurys / problems with running, then perhaps have a look at or, and learn how to run properly ( with a forefoot strike style ), and do not rely on shoes to do the running for you.

    • For those people who don't want to risk shards of glass or metal, trying lean their chest forward a couple of inches really helps technique. Running in good shoes when tired, or too fast, or without concentrating seems to lead to more heel-striking and poorer technique.
    • Your legs and feet are not designed for you land on your heels ( but shoe companys and podaitrists would like you to think so ).

      Yeah, because I know that my wife spent four years in med school and several more in residency without ever managing to learn the physiology of the part of the body she specializes in. We also get a fat monthly check from the American Heel-Strikers, Inc., for her vocal support of not using your toes.

      The husband of a podiatrist who knows more about feet than you do.

  • A Running Shoe For Agent 86?

    I saw no mention of a telephone in this shoe.

    Has the submitter ever watched Get Smart?

  • by Business King ( 599197 ) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @04:36AM (#9071520)
    This device could use some major improvements, and I think we all agree from the postings.

    100 hours battery life, the device can be modified to use kinetic engery. This would make for a nice senior design project in affective wearables. Any profs taking this project up?

    GPS Tracking - Keep track of the user as they work out. Using RF to a cell phone the user is wearing, the data can be sent back to a base terminal as the cell phones cache is filled up. This could be especially useful for elderly wearers, so that their wearabouts can be tracked, and monitored by family members. If the family member stays in place for two long, emergency personal are notified, to alert of a possible fall. It could also be helpful to track children where abouts. Ethical issues are another debate.

    Sensor technology - not only track foot position, but use the shoe to track Blood Volume Pressure (Oxygen levels and blood pressure) as well as pulse, and skin conductance. Sensors could be easily developed to be placed around the toes and or on the bottom of the foot, as the foot is slipped into the shoe.

    Using heads up display technology or just simple voice from the cell phone again, the shoe could give feedback to the wearer as the runner is working out. It could track the workout and give progress updates. Custom programs can be added.

    Make the shoe a power source for other wearable devices. It could be a convienent power source for other affective wearables and on board computing devices. All you would need to do is come out with a line of clothing that has simple fashionable connectors that would connect to the shoe to a pair of pants and or shirt so that other devices could be easily added. To allow for fast adoption, allow other manufactuers and universities to make devices for the clothing line. Give money to Sr. Design research projects that can produce wearable sensors to be used and later marketed.

    The shoe, being in contact with the ground, can be used as a input / output device. When used in a car, it could direclty interface into the car, to provide the car with sensor data about the user. This could be accomplished with RF, but this is another posibility. It could give the user also other feedback about the car state, including any warnings through changing the shoes conformaty or shape, or provide a vibration. It could be easily used to keep a driver awake if he or she started to fall asleep at the wheel.

    It can be used as another form of authentication. Using RF, the shoe can be used as a way of identifying the wearer based on walking styles and patterns of movement. Afater a series of steps, the user can be considered authenticated, and then can procede to move around a building with out using an ID card for entry, but instead, the shoe will transmit the user identity. Cars security, computer security, etc.

    It can be used in hospitals as a tracking system for patients, nurses and doctors. It can be especially useful for ER nurses, for they are on their feet alot; so if it could detect stress in wearers legs, it could advise them to sit down and take a break. I know ER nurses can suffer from being on concrete floors for too long. This shoe can be a great help. My aunt could have used this.

    This shoe though would pose a problem for airport security....have the manufactures thought about this, especially when it becomes more common place...

    Keeping track of little kids is big problem for class field trips. This could be used to help enforce the buddy system. If uniforms were a must at school, these could be part of them.

    If hte shoes could provide enough curent, they could be used as a light source, so that when ladies are trying to get to their cars at night, they could use the shoes as a way to light their way. If modules like these were provided for the shoes, the sales could take off quickly.

    Have programs that can be used to help correct technique in sporting events. Baseball, basketball, soccer, Make a
  • When I saw this article in the NYTimes this morning, I first asked myself would you be able to underclock it to get a better than 100-hour lifetime of the batteries. I mean, who wants to change their shoes' batteries every four days?

What this country needs is a good five cent ANYTHING!