the-mouse-that-roared1I have a mouse in my RV.  Or as many correspondents have told me I have MICE in my RV, because the concept of a solitary mouse is beyond their considerable experience.  This month my wife, three young sons and I (and of course the mice) are in California, mainly touring in our 1996 Winnebago.  We tour, we fix, then tour some more. The old Winnie was never built for 107-degree desert temperatures and neither was I.  So since we’re broken-down waiting (again) for the fixit man to come, I think this might be a good time to update my readers on a few old projects.

But first let me say that in an RV that has both Verizon and AT&T wireless data service, in California at least, Verizon is better — substantially better.  More bars in more places, indeed!

1) Whatever happened to NerdTV?  We made a season for PBS back in 2005-2006 then shot a second season in 2007 that was never aired because of pesky ownership issues and people still wanting to be paid.  The show itself has morphed a bit and will reappear with a new name and an exciting new weekly format this fall as a co-production with the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California.  It will be available for streaming online and may appear in some form on television, too, possibly even with PBS.  Look for an announcement on this soon.  And if your big-to-bigger company wants to sponsor the first season (36 shows!) let’s talk. But I’ll warn you this is a professional production that isn’t cheap to make and we’d prefer a single sponsor.  Still, as the old shows continue to show, the content ought to be timeless.

2) And what happened to Bob’s disk drive project with its stainless steel foil platters?  The idea, remember, was to dramatically reduce the rotating mass with several attendant advantages: 1) lower cost; 2) dramatically lower power; 3) higher performance, and; 4) greater shock resistance.  An iPod with this new type of drive ought to easily run 3-4 times longer on the same battery.  A data center could see storage-related power consumption decrease by up to 85 percent.

Yeah, but what happened?

It took time to develop the stainless steel foil, itself.  Most of the other parts come straight from any disk drive maker’s parts bin but the foil required lots and lots of R&D which was done primarily for nothing — no money — which means it took longer than we would have liked.  But that work is now pretty much complete, the foil is indeed smoother-than-smooth, and a pilot production plant is being built in Japan thanks to the recent entry of a Silicon Valley investor whose name you would recognize.  Look for licensed products to appear starting in 2010.  Interestingly improvements in flash drive technology haven’t particularly hurt the market opportunity, either, since the foil is WAY cheaper and video applications are driving mobile storage requirements up faster than flash prices are coming down.

3) Finally, whatever happened to my plan to land rovers on the Moon?  Am I ambitious or what?

The Moon project, which was originally intended to vie for the $20 million Google Lunar X-Prize, has been moving forward slowly but quietly.  It’s a little harder to do, you see, when there isn’t a $20 million payday at the end, but it became quickly clear to us that there is unlikely to be any winner of that Google prize in the five years ending in 2012 as the contest is currently structured.

Team Cringely, on the other hand, still expects to reach the Moon by 2011 and will by fall have a number of announcements on that front including major technical alliances, major corporate sponsorships, and a global TV deal.  And this is no stunt: we’re working with NASA’s Goddard Space Center to answer a long list of important scientific questions until we use-up our 24th and last rover.

So it’s a busy summer, but mainly we’re wondering now if the 107-degree heat will drive out those mice?