Strange New World: Tech Picks of the Week

This week in the Strange New World, we are all coming down from the high that is the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas and getting ready for some party or something that's supposed to be happening in D.C. next week.

There's good news coming out of Detroit, or at least out of the auto show, the iPhone may finally allow a new browser and nuking stuff at home might no longer mean the microwave. Here now our picks of the week.

A New Toyota Prius

At last week's Detroit Auto Show, Toyota announced the new 2010 Toyota Prius and it looks like they've got a winner there.

The new Hybrid is roomier, more efficient and faster than its predecessor. In fact, the hybrid will now go from zero to 60 in less than 10 seconds. Those aren't sports car numbers, but it will get you back and forth to the organic farmer's market a whole lot quicker.

The car will be available come spring and the company estimates that it will sell about 180,000 of them in the car's first year on the market. The third generation Prius has a larger 1.8 liter engine and gets 50 mpg city and 46 mpg on the highway.

There are also several industry firsts under the hood, like no engine-driven belts and a fully electric air conditioning system.

Bring the Nukes Home

If homeowners are looking to get off the power grid and make their own green energy, they basically have two options: solar or wind.

Depending on location, there might be a few other options, including hydro and geothermal heat pumps. But what about nuclear?

We don't mean backing the local utility's plan to build a reactor but rather one that powers a single home or, at most, a subdivision. Scaling down a reactor isn't as far-fetched as it sounds. There have been a few commercial home nukes over the years.

In the 1980s, presumably before 1986, Japanese residents could buy the Chernobyl Household Nuclear Generator. But, recently, there have been some advances in the personal nuclear reactor market.

One recent product is Toshiba's 4S, which can power a small community for about 30 years at a cost of 5 cents per kilowatt hour.

Galena, Alaska, is among the communities that has been considering deploying the 4S. No word on when 4S will finally be commercially available but we wouldn't be so quick to dismiss nuclear power as a possible local power source.

The iPhone Opens Up

The news swirling around the Internet this week is that Apple has begun approving third-party Web browsers for its iPhone handset. This is a big change from their original "Safari" only stance and this will open up a whole new category at the Apple Apps store.

While none of the big names in third-party browsers like Firefox or Opera have submitted a browser yet, there are several on tap already.