A Profile of Brennon T. Williams, Techie Entrepreneur

In many respects Brennon Williams resembles any other teenager, but you might also mistake him for a fully loaded freight train driving at high speed down the track. This youngster has a lot of forward momentum.

Brennon, who lives between San Francisco and San Jose, recently was chosen as one of the winners of the Digital Open prize, which recognizes outstanding youth tech innovators 17 and under. Meet Brennon in this YouTube video.

Brennon can most succinctly be described as a writer, publisher (Science Quarterly), programmer, entrepreneur, inventor, teacher and science advocate. (I could add debater, Website builder, interviewer, investment club founder, and a small book’s worth of other nouns.)

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A Review of Verizon's One-on-One Droid Training

Verizon has taken a page from Apple offering free 30-minute one-on-one training for the Droid phones it sells (the Motorola Droid and the HTC Eris Droid.) Although I've spent several enjoyable hours exploring the features of my new Droid, I still have a bunch of questions about how to get the most out of my Droid. So I called Verizon to schedule some training. Here is an account of my experience. Up front I can say that I had a very positive time with the training, but not before encountering some real annoyances in scheduling it.

Making the appointment for the training was frustrating. None of the automated phone prompts at Verizon mention the training, so you're left guessing which number to press. These free sessions are offered at Verizon's corporate stores, but not at their retail stores. All in all it took me about 10 minutes to reach someone to schedule my one-on-one training. When I asked to be scheduled on a weekend, they explained that the training is offered only on weekdays from 11 am to 7 pm. I let them know that's when my daytime job takes place. After much hemming and hawing, they relented and scheduled me for 2 pm on a Saturday afternoon at their College Park, Maryland, corporate store.

Upon arrival at the College Park store, I informed the greeter I was there to receive a one-on-one training. A few moments later the manager of the store told me I'd be receiving my training from one of their trainers, Jennifer, after she was finished with her current customer. That's a good sign when the manager of a store is involved so directly with customer interactions. The store was bustling with people and I wondered where the training was going to take place. Jennifer led me to a seat where we could both sit comfortably side-by-side to look at the phone.

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Tetravex Logic Puzzles on Martin Luther King, Jr Day

I decided to honor Martin Luther King, Jr. this year by spending most of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on Twitter. Let me tell you how and why I did this.

First I used the free service Your Twitter Karma to find out which of the people I follow had not tweeted in more than 60 days. I unfollowed most of those people. The reason I needed to do that is that my daytime job is at a public library. I'm paid by taxpayers to be informed. I need to focus my time and energy on those people who are informing me so that I can better pass along that knowledge to the people who pay my salary. People depend upon me to be "in the know." I cannot let them down. If you're not tweeting, you're not informing me.

Then I browsed through some of the new followers of FOSS (free and open source software) tweeters I admire to find some new people to follow. Christian Einfeldt, in San Francisco, has a razor-sharp mind and is a focused advocate of FOSS. Anyone who follows him is likely to be very smart in their own right, and someone I could learn from. Sure enough, I came across tweeter David Schlesinger who happens to be a member of the Advisory Board of the GNOME Foundation, whose aim is to create a free-software computing platform. So I followed him and he followed me right back. And in this way we made the world more free. How? How did we make the world more free?

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Magnify the Motorola Droid

The Motorola Droid packs a lot of pixels into a small device – 854 pixels by 480 pixels. The vertical resolution of the Droid is equivalent to the horizontal resolution of an iPod, whose resolution is 480 by 320 pixels. Having so many pixels makes the Droid well-suited for viewing screencasts, narrated explanations of computer activity. Gazing at that small screen for more than a few minutes could tire the eyes, though. Is there some low-cost, homebrew way to enlarge the screen image on the Droid? Indeed there is.

This YouTube video chronicles some experiments I did using a low-cost Fresnel lens and a homemade cardboard container. My goal in this experiment was to find a way for people to comfortably and portably view the outstanding Inkscape screencasts by Richard Querin and HeathenX which they generously distribute for free. Inkscape is a free vector drawing program that is equivalent to Adobe Illustrator. It runs on all major platforms: Linux, Macintosh and Windows. Here is why I love Inkscape and why you'll love this program, too. (Thanks, TogrutaJedi)

Given the success I quickly encountered in this Droid magnification experiment, you'd think Motorola, Verizon or Google would have thought to try something like this themselves. Truth is, when a company designs a consumer electronics product, it behooves them to involve consumers in the design process. We know better than they do the uses we have for electronic devices. The most they can ever do is guess the purposes for which we use devices.

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Build the Space Elevator Above Volcano Thermals

David Bigelow is the name of a very smart and courageous aviator you've probably never heard of. In 2008, Bigelow used the hot air rising from Hawaii's volcanoes to fly a glider higher than 33,000 feet. Riding the thermal above these volcanoes, where air rises as fast as 600 feet per minute, Bigelow surfed vertically within a huge hot-air wave. In early 2009, Bigelow sought to break his own record by gliding to 40,000 feet. In that attempt his glider crashed, and he lost his life.

Take my word that it's worth joining Bigelow in the cockpit for his 2008 record-breaking flight. You can do so in this incredible YouTube video, which includes excellent animations showing the glider's flight path above the volcano.

Watching that video I could not help but think that Bigelow was pointing the way for humanity to build its dreamed-of space elevator. With that much hot air rising from these volcanoes 365 days per year, you could haul a bunch of stuff up to 20,000 feet using, say, one hundred to two hundred specially designed wide-winged gliders.

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Designed by Consumers - Screenless Laptops

As part of Google's tenth anniversary last year, Google asked for ideas on how to change the world. A great many suggestions were submitted, including the one below from me. Although Google has chosen not to fund this suggestion, I wanted to share it here with PCWorld.com readers for what it's worth. Admittedly, it's counterintuitive to think that a laptop without a screen could be more useful than a laptop with a screen. But as I explain, for some people, that can indeed be the case.

Designed by Consumers--Screenless Laptops

What one sentence best describes your idea? (maximum 150 characters)

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