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Gadgets to fix problems I didn't know I had

Flooding toilets, killer icicles, there's a gizmo for every problem.

1 min read
Gadgets to fix problems I didn't know I had

I get a lot of press releases touting new gadgets. Most are minor improvements on existing technologies—Sonos has a new touch screen controller, Griffin has new iPhone cases.  After all, how many truly different household or handheld gadgets can their be?

Turns out there are at least two more than I thought. In the past week I’ve heard from two companies offering gadgets that solve horrible household problems I confess I’d never before worried about—flooding from toilet overflows and death from killer icicles.

A company called AquaOne Technologies would like to stop my toilet from overflowing, wasting water and ruining my floors in the process, with a gadget called the H2Orb, $130 gizmo that installs between the water line and the toilet. The device uses a low power microcontroller from Texas Instruments and two wireless sensors, one in the tank that detects a slow leak, the other in the bowl that detects imminent overflow.

And Gutterglove would like me to install their heated gutter guard, the Gutterglove IceBreaker, that melts ice and prevents icicles from forming, pointing out that falling icicles can kill people. The Icebreaker uses a single self-regulating cable to generate heat. Pricing is available from local dealers.

How have I lived so long without these?

Photos: top left: H2Orb; bottom right: Gutterglove IceBreaker

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Two Startups Are Bringing Fiber to the Processor

Avicena’s blue microLEDs are the dark horse in a race with Ayar Labs’ laser-based system

5 min read
Diffuse blue light shines from a patterned surface through a ring. A blue cable leads away from it.

Avicena’s microLED chiplets could one day link all the CPUs in a computer cluster together.


If a CPU in Seoul sends a byte of data to a processor in Prague, the information covers most of the distance as light, zipping along with no resistance. But put both those processors on the same motherboard, and they’ll need to communicate over energy-sapping copper, which slow the communication speeds possible within computers. Two Silicon Valley startups, Avicena and Ayar Labs, are doing something about that longstanding limit. If they succeed in their attempts to finally bring optical fiber all the way to the processor, it might not just accelerate computing—it might also remake it.

Both companies are developing fiber-connected chiplets, small chips meant to share a high-bandwidth connection with CPUs and other data-hungry silicon in a shared package. They are each ramping up production in 2023, though it may be a couple of years before we see a computer on the market with either product.

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