Three Friday’s ago, I announced ZDNet’s Deputy Tester of the Week program. The following Monday, in search of our first deputy testers, I offered three free copies of PPTMinimizer 3.0 to the members of ZDNet’s audience who needed a utility like that for compressing PowerPoint files into more manageable sizes (for whatever reasons). There were over 175 responses to that giveaway (not including some of my own replies to some questions that were asked).
Last week, I put two ID Vaults from GuardID Systems up for grabs. In the first week, a few people complained that what I had to give away was of nominal value. Proving you can't make everybody happy, others complained about the rule whereby, if I give something away that's worth more than $600, the recipient is responsible for paying any taxes. This weekI have two more items to give away and they are neither nominally valued, nor do they invoke the $600 tax rule.
Valued At $550 each, I am giving away two Sun SPOT Java Development Kits. So, what's a Sun Spot JDK. It comes from the folks in Sun's Labs and SPOT stands for Small Programmable Object Technology (not to be confused with Microsoft's SPOT -- Smart Personal Objects Technology). Sun SPOTs (at least this initial version of them, there will probably be others) can fit in the palm of your hand and are essentially tiny wireless Java Virtual Machine-based computers. In other words, their programming can be modified for a wide variety of applications to which these little devices might come in handy. For example, with six analog interface, a Sun SPOT could be the heart and sole of an unmanned vehicle. Or a robot (like this one I spotted at JavaOne 2007).
Or, there could be applications where Sun SPOTs talk to each other. Not only do I show a demo of this in the above video, I bring the basic idea home with an example that anybody who has seen the movie Twister will get. Do you remember in that movie how the main idea was to get those little balls launched right into an active tornado? Well, if those balls were Sun SPOTs, not only could they collect an extraordinary amount of data, they could talk to each other in an effort to correlate the data they're gathering and pass that information (or results) along to some base station.
One of the more interesting features of Sun SPOTs is how their programming can by dynamically changed -- sort of the way androids on Star Trek have can have their programming changed. Not only can these changes be made via a USB cable, they can also be made wirelessly. The Sun SPOT JDK comes with two "free range" Sun SPOTs and one base station Sun SPOT (which can wirelessly transmit instructions to the free range Sun SPOTs).
In the video, you'll hear Sun's pitch for what's cool about them well as see the Sun SPOTs in action. The bottom line is that, while I can imagine all sorts of applications for Sun SPOTs, I'm not qualified to test them (although imagining the possibilities is enough to make me want to take six months off just to bone up on my Java programming and try a few things out). I did however set one of the Sun SPOT JDKs up on one of the Windows XP-based virtual machines that I've loaded into a Lenovo Thinkpad X60 tablet running VMWare Workstation 6. Loading the JDK wasn't exactly a point-and-click operation. The instructions tell you that you'll need to tweak some Windows settings before the NetBeans IDE (included) will be able to successfully load a Sun SPOT with code. But for developers, this sort of thing is child's play.
To participate in ZDNet’s Deputy Tester of the Week program, there are some rules and regulations that you should read (to keep our lawyers happy). Then, using the ZDNet TalkBack facility on this blog entry, make your best pitch as to why I should send one of the two Sun SPOTs I have here in my office to you.
Keep in mind we’re looking for people who are can tell us why they’re the most qualified to test the product in their real world environments. And then, once you receive the product, I’d love to hear back from you regarding your findings. Even if I don’t, you get to keep the product. Finally, if you are “applying” to join ZDNet’s posse of deputy testers, be sure to check back this Friday to see whether you’ve been accepted into the program, or not. So, good luck and let the TalkBacks begin!