Updated: 3/25/2007; 11:15:21 PM.

Ken Novak's Weblog
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daily link  Sunday, March 25, 2007


Bruce Sterling update:  Now calling his concept "cybergreens":  "They're all about creating irresistible consumer demand for cool objects that will yield a global atmosphere upgrade. It's the Net vs. the 20th-century fossil order in a fight that the cybergreens are winning. Why? Because they're not about spiritual potential, human decency, small is beautiful, peace, justice or anything else unattainable. The cybergreens are about stuff people want, such as health, sex, glamour, hot products, awesome bandwidth, tech innovation and tons of money.

We're gonna glam, spend and consume our way into planetary survival. My own favorite sci-fi planetary-saving scheme for naming, numbering and linking to the Internet every piece of junk we create so that it can be corralled and briskly recycled, creating a cradle-to-cradle postindustrial order and averting planetary doom, may sound pretty shocking and alien. But I wrote that book while in residency at a famous design school. I received an honorary doctorate there and the book was published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It gets great reviews, designers love it. It's not even science fiction -- it's a cybergreen manifesto.

In 1998, I had it figured that the dot-com boom would become a dot-green boom. It took a while for others to get it. Some still don't. They think I'm joking. They are still used to thinking of greenness as being "counter" and "alternative" -- they don't understand that 21st-century green is and must be about everything -- the works. Sustainability is comprehensive. That which is not sustainable doesn't go on. Glamorous green."
  11:15:08 PM  permalink  


daily link  Friday, March 23, 2007


Reverse Foreign Aid:  Important issues with incomplete explanation.  "According to the United Nations, in 2006 the net transfer of capital from poorer countries to rich ones was $784 billion, up from $229 billion in 2002. (In 1997, the balance was even.)"  Reasons:
  1. Since 1990, the world’s nonrich nations have increased their reserves, on average, from around three months’ worth of imports to more than eight months’ worth — or the equivalent of about 30 percent of their G.D.P. China and other countries maintain those reserves mainly in the form of supersecure U.S. Treasury bills.. But the problem is that T-bills earn low returns. All the money spent on T-bills — a very substantial sum — could be earning far better returns invested elsewhere, or could be used to pay teachers and build highways at home, activities that bring returns of a different type. Dani Rodrik, an economist at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, estimates conservatively that maintaining reserves in excess of the three-month standard costs poor countries 1 percent of their economies annually — some $110 billion every year. Joseph Stiglitz, the Columbia University economist, says he thinks the real cost could be double that.
  2. As poorer countries enter the W.T.O., they must agree to pay royalties on [intellectual property] — and a result is a net obligation of more than $40 billion annually that poorer countries owe to American and European corporations.
  3. The hypercompetition for global investment has produced another important reverse subsidy: the tax holidays poor countries offer foreign investors... Since deals between corporations and governments are usually secret, it is hard to know how much investment incentives cost poorer countries — certainly tens of billions of dollars. Whatever the cost, it is growing, as country after country has passed laws enabling the offer of such incentives.
  4. The migration of highly educated people from poor nations is increasing. A small brain drain can benefit the South, as emigrants send money home and may return with new skills and capital. But in places where educated people are few and emigrants don’t go home again, the brain drain devastates. .. The financial consequences for the poorer nations can be severe. A doctor who moves from Johannesburg to North Dakota costs the South African government as much as $100,000, the price of training him there. ..
  5. Most costly to poor countries, they have been drafted into paying for rich nations’ energy use. On a per capita basis, Americans .. create more global warming — than anyone else. .. American energy use is being subsidized by tropical coastal nations, who appear to be global warming’s first victims."
Reasons 1-3 add up to less than $300B of today's $784B.  Reason 4 has been happening ever since decolonization, and is substantially offset by remittances from the migrant home.  Reason 5 is not monetized today.  So the substantial majority of the amount is unexplained -- esp by comparison to 2002, when it was one third the size.  What changed so drastically?  Does this figure include China's net exports, and their policy of incredibly high foreign exchange holdings, inflating the entire issue?
  7:33:20 AM  permalink  


daily link  Thursday, March 22, 2007


IDC: Server shipments slow on spread of virtualization:  "Growth in the x86 server market revved slightly in Q4 2006, growing 7.0% in the quarter to $7.2 billion worldwide, its fastest growth rate in five quarters, but unit shipment growth continued to moderate with growth at 1.1% year over year, to 1.85 million servers as customers continued to consolidate their IT infrastructures, .. "For the first time in more than 10 years, average selling values in the quarter increased year over year as IT managers move to consolidate IT workloads. This shift toward a shared compute infrastructure is driving additional scalability, memory attachment and I/O needs, which in turn, lead to higher average selling values." ..

Microsoft Windows servers .. revenue grew 9.4% and unit shipments grew 5.1% year over year. Quarterly revenue of $5.3 billion for Windows servers represented 34.9% of overall quarterly factory revenue, the single largest revenue segment in the server market, IDC reported.

After two consecutive quarters of single-digit revenue growth, Linux server revenue growth accelerated once again, growing 15.3% to $1.8 billion when compared with Q4 2005. Linux servers now represent 11.9% of all server revenue, up more than one point over Q4 2005. But Linux server shipments declined 0.8% year over year after 18 quarters of double-digit shipment growth, as IT consolidation extends its reach into the open source domain...

Unix servers experienced 2.8% revenue growth year over year when compared with Q4 2006. Worldwide Unix revenues were $5.1 billion for the quarter, representing 33.5% of quarterly server spending."  Itanium, z/OS and blades sold about $3.5B combined."
  10:38:40 PM  permalink  

Introduction to Power Line Communications:  Simple and short intro, mostly about in-home use, with mention of BPL (broadband over power line) utility applications.
  9:15:03 PM  permalink  


daily link  Wednesday, March 21, 2007


RPS outside the US:   "- China will increase its use of renewables as part of a national plan to combat climate change, says the country’s environment minister Xie Zhenhua. .. he says the Chinese government will announce a national plan with concrete targets to improve energy efficiency by 20% by 2010 and to increase the proportion of renewables to 10%.

- Taiwan Power will spend NT$3.6 billion to install solar panels .. Taiwan imports 98% of its energy and the government wants renewables to generate 12% by 2025. .. The government owns 97% of Taipower, which generates three-quarters of the island’s electricity.

- The World Wind Energy Agency has welcomed the decision by the European Union to increase the continent’s share of renewables to 20% by 2020."
  7:58:26 AM  permalink  

Texas Bid Could be First U.S. Offshore Wind Farm:  "Jerry Patterson, Commissioner of the Texas General Land Office, announced that the state has signed an agreement to allow an offshore wind-energy project in the United States to be built off Galveston Island. .. [Work begins immediately on] towers [to] gather data to determine exactly where the 150 MW wind energy development will be built on an 11,355-acre lease about seven miles off the coast of Galveston Island. ..

there is only one entity in Texas for an offshore wind developer to deal with -- the Texas General Land Office, according to the developers.  Also, development within the 10.36 miles offers proximity to the state's electrical grid to carry wind-generated power to customers.  Coastal winds also tend to rise during the day when the state's electrical generating capacity faces peak demand, therefore generating power when it's most needed. Plus, the gentle slope of the Texas Gulf Coast makes the development of an offshore wind farm easy. ..

Once the research is complete, the second phase of the lease -- the construction phase -- will begin. Construction is expected to cost as much as $300 million and could take as long as five years. W.E.S.T. plans to build a field of about 50 wind turbines to produce an expected 150 MW. The hub of each turbine will rise 260 feet above sea level. The turbine blades will be up to 55 yards long .. "  Production is expected to last 30 years.
  7:56:15 AM  permalink  

South Africa: Cape green power plans:  "Eskom, local authorities and the private sector are set to launch renewable energy projects that will add at least 350 megawatts of electricity to the national energy grid. The Western Cape uses around 4 000MW of electricity daily, while the entire country uses around 34 000MW, which can go up to 40 000MW at peak demand [somewhat less than California].  In the recent past there have been regular power outages as Eskom battles to meet the growing demand for electricity.

The planned renewable energy projects include two 100MW wind farms on the West Coast, a 100MW solar thermal plant in the Northern Cape and a 50MW solar thermal plant on the West Coast. .. The department is keen to launch projects that will ensure that 15 percent of the region's electricity needs will be met by clean and renewable sources by 2015."

Meanwhile the giant projects being coming online today are not so green; coal dwarfs them all:  "The two Western Cape liquid-fuel open-cycle gas turbine stations would collectively add another 1050 megaWatts of power to the national grid.  Ingula Power Station .. will be a pump-storage hydro-electric scheme, with a generating capacity of 1330 mW. .. The 4200 mW coal-fired power station in Lephalele would be named Medupi, meaning "the name that soaks parched land"."
  7:41:23 AM  permalink  


daily link  Sunday, March 18, 2007


SolarMission Solar Tower Video:  "SolarMission Technologies and its Australian subsidiary, EnviroMission Limited produced this 5 minute video about its early pilot plant in Spain. It is an older video (2000) but gives a basic understanding of the solar tower concept."  Very effective story.
  4:57:54 PM  permalink  

About Parabolic Trough Solar:   Solid review of the field, from Sept 2005.
  4:41:18 PM  permalink  


daily link  Friday, March 16, 2007


The Globus Consortium Journal: Overview of Virtualization Technology in Distributed Computing workshop.  "Among the highlights was an interesting paper from Intel dissecting the performance of Xen networking. A wonderful adoption scenario was represented in the work from the University of Marburg where suspend/resume properties of VMs are being used to improve backfill strategies in the local scheduler - computations running in VMs are simply suspended when a large parallel job is scheduled to run and resumed afterwards. The remarkable part of this work was that it was very much requirement-driven and has been voted into production by users. Another interesting talk came from the Australian Partnership for Advanced Computing (APAC) described their experiences using virtual machines in production Grids for a couple of years now."
  11:20:49 PM  permalink  

General Motors battery development:  Details with simple slides about GM's PHEV battery efforts.
  10:25:46 PM  permalink  

Start-Up Fervor Shifts to Energy in Silicon Valley:  Yet more coverage of the boomlet that started in 2001.  "Out of the ashes of the Internet bust, many technology veterans have regrouped and found a new mission in alternative energy: developing wind power, solar panels, ethanol plants and hydrogen-powered cars.  It is no secret that venture capitalists have begun pouring billions into energy-related start-ups with names like SunPower, Nanosolar and Lilliputian Systems.  But that interest is now spilling over to many others in Silicon Valley — lawyers, accountants, recruiters and publicists, all developing energy-oriented practices to cater to the cause. ..

the Valley has always run in cycles. It is a kind of renewable gold rush, a wealth- and technology-creating principle that is always looking for something around which to organize."
  10:16:13 PM  permalink  

Clone your Active Directory in 12 minutes using VMWare:  Short instructions.
  4:18:11 PM  permalink  

TechComparison - Linux Virtualization Wiki:  Interesting comparison chart of virtualization technologies.  Also: a story of a satisfied Xen user.
  4:17:31 PM  permalink  

When to use VDI, when to use server-based computing, and how the Citrix Ardence dynamic desktop fits into all this:  Long and thorough article comparing the different desktop models.  Also profiles Ardence virtual disks, an "iSCSI-lite" for non-persistent disks that can be delivered for PXE boot as well as run time read. 
  3:38:42 PM  permalink  

Transmission Access For Renewable Energy:  Important regulatory innovations go national.  " The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) adopted a new regulation on February 15th that aims to allow greater access to transmission lines for power generators of all types, including renewable energy projects. The new rule exempts intermittent power generators, such as wind power plants, from excessive "imbalance" charges when the amount of energy they deliver is different than the amount of energy they are scheduled to deliver. To help accommodate less-predictable forms of renewable power generation, the rule creates a "conditional firm" service to deliver power from a generator to a customer, allowing the power supplier to provide firm service for most, but not all, hours in the requested time period.  A key aspect of the new rule is that it eliminates the broad discretion that transmission providers currently possess in calculating the unused, available capacity on their transmission lines. ..

The California ISO has also asked FERC to approve an innovative financing vehicle for new transmission lines, allowing utilities to invest in a transmission line and then having renewable generators pay for the line as they use it."
  3:27:12 PM  permalink  

Fats Into Jet Fuel:  "New biofuels technology developed by North Carolina State University engineers has the potential to turn virtually any fat source – vegetable oils, oils from animal fat and even oils from algae – into fuel to power jet airplanes. .. [It] can also be used to make additives for cold-weather biodiesel fuels and holds the potential to fuel automobiles that currently run on gasoline. ..

“We can take virtually any lipid-based feedstock, or raw material with a fat source – including what is perceived as low-quality feedstock like cooking grease – and turn it into virtually any fuel,” [professor] Roberts says. “Using low-quality feedstock is typically 30 percent less costly than using corn or canola oils to make fuel. And we’re not competing directly with the food supply, like ethanol-based fuels that are made from corn.”  .. Converting feedstock into fuel produces a low-value commodity – glycerol – as a by-product. Rather than discarding glycerol as waste like most biodiesel plants do, the NC State engineers’ process burns glycerol cleanly and efficiently to provide some of the process’ requisite high temperatures. ..

The physical and chemical properties of traditional biodiesel fuels – their combustion characteristics and viscosity, for example – don’t match the stringent requirements of jet fuel....

First, the engineers use high temperatures and high water pressure to strip off the so-called free fatty acids from the accumulated feedstock of oils and fats, or triglycerides. Next, the engineers place the free fatty acids in a reactor to perform the decarboxylation step; that is, carbon dioxide is taken off the free fatty acids. Depending on the feedstock used, the scientists are left with alkanes, or straight-chain hydrocarbons of either 15 or 17 carbon atoms.  “After these first two steps, which are always the same no matter which fuel you want, we can make any fuel we want to make,” Roberts says. “In the last two steps, we can change the recipe based on the fuel output desired.”

In the last two steps, the engineers break up the straight chains into molecules with branches, making them more compact and changing their chemical and physical characteristics. Jet fuel and biodiesel fuel require a mixture of molecules with between 10 and 14 carbon atoms, while gasoline requires only eight carbon atoms, so the engineers can control the process to elicit exactly the type of fuel they desire.

“We produce one-and-a-half billion gallons of animal fats annually, which is about half of the amount of vegetable oil produced yearly,” Roberts said. “Animal fats are harder to work with, but cheaper. Last year, for the first time ever, fuel costs in the aviation industry exceeded labor costs. We think the aviation industry is keen on finding alternatives to petroleum-based jet fuel.”"
  3:23:15 PM  permalink  

Self-Assembling Batteries:  "Researchers at MIT have designed a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that assembles itself out of microscopic materials. This could lead to ultrasmall power sources for sensors and micromachines the size of the head of a pin. It could also make it possible to pack battery materials in unused space inside electronic devices."  Earlier related story:  Batteries That Assemble Themselves: "Biology may be the key to producing light-weight, inexpensive, and high-performance batteries that could transform military uniforms into power sources and, eventually, improve electric and hybrid vehicles. Angela Belcher, an MIT professor of biological engineering and materials science, and two colleagues, materials science professor Yet-Ming Chiang and chemical engineering professor Paula Hammond, have engineered viruses to assemble battery components that can store three times as much energy as traditional materials by packing highly ordered materials into a very small space."  3:08:44 PM  permalink  

Researchers convert heat to electricity using organic molecules:  "Arun Majumdar, UC Berkeley professor of mechanical engineering was principal investigator of the study..  [His team] successfully generated electricity from heat by trapping organic molecules between metal nanoparticles, an achievement that could pave the way toward the development of a new source for energy."  While it's a long way from marketable form, it would have implications for energy, nanomaterials, and sensors (which need small amounts of energy to function).
  3:03:52 PM  permalink  


daily link  Tuesday, March 13, 2007


Global Clean Energy Market Report:  From Clean Edge and Nth Power.  "Global clean-energy markets are poised to quadruple in the next decade, growing from $55.4 billion in revenues in 2006 to more than $226.5 billion by 2016."  Charts and summary report online, with numerous references.  Highlights:
  • "the global biofuels market was slightly larger than both solar and wind, reaching $20.5 billion in 2006 and projected to grow to more than $80 billion by 2016. Clean Edge projects solar photovoltaics (modules, system components, and installations) will grow from a $15.6 billion market in 2006 to $69.3 billion by 2016; wind power installations will expand from $17.9 billion in 2006 to $60.8 billion in 2016; and the markets for fuel cells and distributed hydrogen will grow from $1.4 billion in 2006 to $15.6 billion over the next decade."
  • "VC investments in energy-tech start- ups rose 262 percent to $2.4 billion in 2006. These investments, primarily in transportation and fuels, distributed energy, energy intelligence, and power reliability, eclipsed the previous high- water mark set in 2000 for energy-tech investing by more than $1 billion. The figures represent 9.4 percent of total US venture capital investments in 2006. "
  • 5 trends are highlighted:
    • Carbon Finally Has a Price…and a Market
    • Biorefineries Begin to Close the Loop
    • Advanced Battery Makers Take Charge
    • Wal-Mart Becomes a Clean-Energy Market Maker
    • Utilities Get Enlightened
  • Energy intelligence -- using IT for efficiency -- is a category that Nth Power has targeted for some time.  They report increases in investments from $192m in 2004 to $272m in 2005 to $476 in 2006 (of which $178m was for broadband over power investments).

  2:52:46 PM  permalink  


daily link  Monday, March 12, 2007


Coltan and Your Mobile:  Disturbing effect of a key electronic material on the ongoing disaster in the Congo.  "Columbite-tantalite (from here on referred to as Coltan). On its own it looks and feels like a very fertile soil, but when refined you get a highly heat-resistant metal powder called tantalum. Once refined, coltan has myriad uses, all of which pertain to its particular properties of being a dense mineral with the ability to withstand high temperatures and stress.To the high-tech industry this tantalum is a magic dust that is essential in making computer chips, stereo’s, VCR and DVD players and mobile phones. As such, coltan derivatives are used as capacitors in devices such as mobile phones and even complex missile guidance systems. ..

Coltan is mined by hand in the Congo by groups of men digging basins in streams by scrapping off the surface mud. They then “slosh” the water around the crater, which causes the Coltan ore to settle to the bottom of the crater where it is retrieved by the miners...

While a fair majority of the worlds tantalum supply comes from legitimate mining operations in Australia, Canada and Brazil the recent demand for tantalum has caused a more sinister market to begin flourishing in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where 80% of the world’s known coltan supply is subject to “highly organized and systematic exploitation.” There, warring rebel groups - many funded and supplied by neighboring Rwanda and Uganda - are exploiting coltan mining in the Eastern DRC to help finance political and human oppression, child enslavement, torture and war. The mining area is also within one of the main ranges of the threatened Eastern Lowland Gorilla  .. In April of 2001 the United Nations issued a report on the rape of resources from the DRC. In their findings field investigators reported that Rwandan, Ugandan and Burundian rebels had looted and smuggled thousands of tons of coltan from the Congo into their countries to export to the global market, using the profits to finance their militias. ..Coltan smuggling has also been implicated as a major source of income for the military occupation of Congo which is also linked to forced child enlisting, rape and the rampant spread of HIV. ..

Manufacturers rely on their “suppliers” which are Tantalum capacitor makers like Kemet of Greenville, S.C., the world’s largest tantalum capacitor maker and on the companies trading the minerals. .. some 80 percent of the worlds Coltan comes from the DRC and most of that passes through several black market hands before its finally delivered to the refineries it what appears to be legitimate means."
  7:34:46 AM  permalink  


daily link  Saturday, March 10, 2007


Altairnano power play:  I wonder if this battery is for real.  "Altairnano - a relatively small public company [claims to produce] a battery that could power an electric vehicle hundreds of miles, charge in 10 minutes, and have a service life of 20 years or more.. The secret, according to Gotcher, is nanotechnology, and Altairnano's selection of nano-structured lithium titanate as a framework for its battery, branded NanoSafe™. Because the storage compartments are so small, the battery can store a lot of lithium ions. And the titanate material used in the nanostructures enhances battery cycle life, and gives it an extraordinary service life, he said., [claiming] more than 20,000 cycles with little performance degradation, .. Altairnano says its batteries have been tested under extreme conditions, including an operating temperature range of -50 to plus 71 degrees Celsius.  ..

The battery pack can be charged at low voltage over long times, or charged at higher voltages quicker, Gotcher said. In a 10 minute or less charge, at least 480 volts at several hundred amps will be required, transferring 210 kW/h of energy to the battery pack. .. How would service stations of the future store the mammoth amounts of electricity required by electric vehicles? Altairnano's Gotcher says the company "hasn't really said a lot about that yet, but you'll see us come forward with information in the second quarter."

Related news:  Power company AES made a $3 million "strategic investment" buying 1.5% of Altairnano's stock.  ZAP is building a Tesla-like roadster with its batteries.  So is Phoenix Motorcars, which has contracted to deliver 200 utility trucks with these batteries to PG&E in June 2007:  "Phoenix’s SUT can travel at freeway-speeds while carrying five passengers and a full payload, the company claimed. The SUT has a driving range of over 100 miles, can be recharged in less than 10 minutes and has a battery pack with a lifespan of more than 12 years."

  12:03:14 AM  permalink  


daily link  Tuesday, March 06, 2007


Adam Smith turns green:  Nice short statement that many friends of mine could make.  "We investors and entrepreneurs in the cleantech world have a guilty conscience. People often ask us, “Are you motivated by the money or by the mission?” It’s become unfashionable and a little shameful to say you’re driven by anything but profit, but I’m not afraid to say I’m a clean energy investor because of my values. ..

I looked at the energy marketplace and what was happening with new technologies .. It felt like the revolutionary zeal that I and other entrepreneurs had for the internet in the early days. And when we were asked, “are you in this to make money or change the world?” Of course we wanted to change the world! Making money was just validation that it worked. Virtually every early internet entrepreneur I knew recognized the opportunity to change the world for the better by growing the Net. It wasn’t until many years later that the hordes of profit-only entrepreneurs came to the scene. Indeed, if you want a sign of over-investment in cleantech, look for an invasion of founders and CEOs who are in it only for the money."
  12:29:32 PM  permalink  


daily link  Monday, March 05, 2007


Oil Innovations Pump New Life Into Old Wells:  Update on technologies for recovering the 2/3 of oil that conventional drilling leaves in the ground.  A theme covered in depth in the January 2001 Atlantic.   Bottom lines for me is that I don't believe we're close to peak oil as long as oil prices rise to pay for technology; and that $50 per barrel can fund a lot of secondary recovery technology to keep oil flowing.  Oil use should be cut for environmental and security reasons; economics and resource availability reasons will not help.

  11:30:26 AM  permalink  


daily link  Thursday, February 22, 2007


The endowment effect, the 9X problem and collaboration:  Nice summary from HBS.  "the "endowment effect" [is when] we value items in our possession more than prospective items that could be in our possession, especially if the prospective item is a proposed substitute.  We mentally compare having the prospective item to giving up what we already have (our 'endowment'), but because we're loss averse giving up what we already have (our reference point) looms large. 

And Gourville points out three factors that make the situation worse for product developers who want their offerings to succeed.  First is timing:  adopters have to give up their endowment immediately, and only get benefits sometime in the future.  Second, these benefits are not certain; the new product might not work as promised.  Third, benefits are usually qualitative, making them difficult to enumerate and compare. ..

Because of all of the above, Gourville talks about the '9X problem' --  "a mismatch of 9 to 1 between what innovators think consumers want and what consumers actually want."1  The 9X problem goes a long way to explaining the tech industry folk wisdom that to spread like wildfire a new product has to offer a tenfold improvement over  what's currently out there...

Email is a channel technology.  It creates a private conduit between the sender and receiver.  Other parties don't know that the email was sent, and can't consult its contents.   Wikis, del.icio.us, Flickr, Myspace, Facebook, and YouTube, on the other hand, are all platform technologies.  They accumulate content over time and make it visible and accessible to all community members.  [They also foster emergence, where structure emerges rather than being imposed by "groupware" products.] ..  So the new tools are not direct substitutes for email; instead, they're intended to provide capabilities that email can't.  Will they succeed?  It depends  heavily, I believe, on whether companies and their managers want technology platforms for collaboration.  This desire will be an important factor in solving email's 9X problem. "
  1:44:26 PM  permalink  

How To Tell The Open Source Winners From The Losers: A 9-point checklist for evaluating open source solutions:
  1. "A thriving community: A handful of lead developers, a large body of contributors, and a substantial--or at least motivated--user group offering ideas.
  2. Disruptive goals:Does something notably better than commercial code. Free isn't enough.
  3. A benevolent dictator: Leader who can inspire and guide developers, asking the right questions and letting only the right code in.
  4. Transparency: Decisions are made openly, with threads of discussion, active mailing list, and negative and positive comments aired.
  5. Civility: Strong forums police against personal attacks or niggling issues, focus on big goals.
  6. Documentation: What good's a project that can't be implemented by those outside its development?
  7. Employed developers: The key developers need to work on it full time.
  8. A clear license: Some are very business friendly, others clear as mud.
  9. Commercial support: Companies need more than e-mail support from volunteers. Is there a solid company employing people you can call? "
  1:05:13 PM  permalink  

Australia wants (incandescent) lights out by 2010:  "Australia looks set to become the first country to phase out incandescent light bulbs in favor of more energy-efficient compact fluorescent bulbs, as part of its drive to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.  The Australian federal environment minister, Malcolm Turnbull, said Tuesday that he would work with the states to get rid of incandescent bulbs by 2009 or 2010. .. "Electric lighting is a vital part of our lives; globally it generates emissions equal to 70 percent of those from all the world's passenger vehicles." ..

Australia already has minimum energy performance standards that apply to electrical appliances, and a similar system will be applied to light bulbs.  The standards would ultimately make it impossible to sell incandescent bulbs. Turnbull said the government would consider some exceptions to the restrictions for special applications like medical lighting and oven lights. Australia has used similar means to phase out water-thirsty lavatory cisterns and high-pressure shower heads.

Australia would be the first country to implement such a plan. The initiative appears likely to move ahead with little political conflict.  Environmental groups are also pleased, particularly as the center-right government of John Howard was, until recently, unwilling to accept climate change as a reality."
  12:48:36 PM  permalink  


daily link  Monday, February 19, 2007


IE6 on XP SP2: Nov 2006: Microsoft offers a free download of "a VPC virtual machine image containing a pre-activated Windows XP SP2, IE6 and the IE7 Readiness Toolkit to help facilitate your testing and development. The image is time bombed and will no longer function after April 1, 2007. We hope to continue to provide these images in the future as a service to web developers."  Even with only 6 weeks to go, it might be a useful device for testing.
  5:11:29 PM  permalink  

Virtualization: Xen vs. Microsoft vs. VMware:  Nice short comparison chart of the three platforms in their free and paid flavors.
  5:05:30 PM  permalink  

Automatically download VMware images:  Thoughtpolice.co.uk offers VMware images ready-to-use for Fedora, Ubuntu, and FreeBSD.  When they issue a new one, they place a torrent link in a file you can download via rsync to torrent the image, all automatically.  Subscribing to virtual appliances is an idea that's been much talked about, and there may finally be a sufficient audience for it.
  12:53:29 AM  permalink  

Running Windows on the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud with Qemu and Linux:  At first this seems like a kludge, but it has some other benefits:

  • "Significantly lower per/hour costs by running several additional Virtual Machines per AMI. This would require a Qemu abstraction / accelerator. You could foresee up to 15+ addition concurrent operation systems.
  • Able to more effectively simulate varied operating/hardware environments for easy migration from legacy systems.
  • Backups to S3 - Using the Qemu-img tool, instant snapshots can be saved to S3. Used with a versioning system, this could provide for unlimited roll backs.
  • VMware compatible - Qemu-img supports vmdk conversion as well as several other formats enabling easy migration from existing virtualized server environments"

Use of QEMU's virtual disk differencing system has appeal.  The big question is the speed of the resulting systems, and any possible limitations from the size of the EC2 virtual machines.
  12:44:01 AM  permalink  



daily link  Wednesday, February 14, 2007


Dell is posting VMmark results:  "Dell has recently measured various configurations of two- and four-socket PowerEdge servers running VMware ESX Server 3 using a beta version of the VMmark benchmark. The graphs shows a 4-socket PowerEdge 6950 with dual-core AMD Opteron processors has 57% higher virtualization performance than a 2-socket PowerEdge 2950 with dual-core Intel Xeon series 5100 processors. The 2-socket PowerEdge 2900 with new quad-core Intel Xeon 5300 series processors shows 51% better performance. Equally impressive, all three 8-core servers were able to support the same number of heavily-loaded virtual machines."
  10:47:41 AM  permalink  

On the Reliability of Hard Disks:  Summarizing research papers: "there was no correlation between disk failure rates and utilization, environmental conditions such as temperature, or age. This means that high disk utilization or age of the disk have no significant impact on the probability that it will fail.  .. the expected remaining time until the next disk failure grows with the time it has been since the last failure...

They did find a strong correlation between manufacturer/model and failure rates. They observed that older disks had a much lower failure rates then newer disks, where the newer disks in general were less expensive. Basically you get what you pay when you talk about disk reliability. ..

The only exception to the lack of correlation was that infant mortality rate for disks showed a correlation with high utilization: if a new disk is really crappy you can detect this by putting a high load on it. ..

Both papers report disk failure rates in the 6%-10% range: in a datacenter with about 100,000 disks you will need to replace up to between 6,000 and 10,000 disks per year. "
  10:44:53 AM  permalink  


daily link  Monday, February 12, 2007


EPEAT: "EPEAT is a system to help purchasers in the public and private sectors evaluate, compare and select desktop computers, notebooks and monitors based on their environmental attributes. EPEAT also provides a clear and consistent set of performance criteria for the design of products.. On January 24, President Bush signed Executive Order 13423 that mandates federal agencies to buy EPEAT registered products."  8:49:16 AM  permalink  

Energy Subsidy list:  "There are thousands of government policies in place around the world that act counter to stated objectives with regard to energy security, diversification, and environmental protection.  This ten distortionary energy subsidies discussed below represent policies that, if corrected, would materially realign price signals to more effectively achieve energy market end goals. "
  8:43:42 AM  permalink  

Eleven Emerging Ideas for SOA Architects in 2007:  Good listing of how web services are actually succeeding today.  "This is where the World Wide Web continues to teach us effective techniques for service consumption and adoption. .. This is using the basic Web formats and protocols such as HTTP, XML, REST, and JSON as the "Unix Pipe of the Web" -- to quote a colorful phrase of Ray Ozzie's -- as the fundamental glue between systems. This allows widgets, Ajax applications, and mashups to be wired together so quickly it can almost be done in real-time with the latest tools."
  8:36:07 AM  permalink  


daily link  Saturday, January 27, 2007


Battery investor roundup:  "A123 Systems Inc., a Watertown, Mass.-based battery maker today raised $40 million in Series D funding [making] it the sector’s best-capitalized company, having raised a total of around $102 million since being founded in 2001. General Electric Commercial Finance led the round, with other return backers ... The only new investor was Duracell maker Procter & Gamble...

A123 Systems makes lithium-ion batteries.. A123 products are non-combustible and “do not release oxygen if exposed to high temperature or in the event of battery failure or mechanical abuse.” .. Its initial contract was for a line of Black & Decker power tools, but more recently signed a deal to help develop battery packs for General Motors’ upcoming line of plug-in hybrid vehicles (most current hybrids use nickel-metal hydride)... [US] Army venture arm OnPoint is [an investor] so that soldiers can carry lighter battery packs that won’t catch fire if pierced by shrapnel.

A quick search of the Thomson VentureXpert database shows that ten lithium-ion battery companies have raised VC funding in the past two years. The second-largest raiser after A123 is Golden, Colo.–based Infinite Power Corp., which scored around $35 million in Series A funding from firms like Applied Ventures, Core Capital Partners, D.E. Shaw, Polaris Venture Partners, In-Q-Tel and Springworks. Next up was Boston-Power, which raised nearly $25 million (at a $60m post-money valuation) from firms like Gabriel Venture Partners, Granite Global Ventures and Venrock Associates."  12:45:32 AM  permalink  

LEED certified mass-produced home:  Nice photos and videos of Living Homes' modern, sustainable, factory built design.
  12:25:50 AM  permalink  


daily link  Friday, January 26, 2007


Wireless Telemetry Growing to $25.3bn by 2009, as Enterprise Wakes up to Real-Time Efficiency Savings:  "wireless telemetry (or AMR – Automated Meter Reading) will [grow] - according to industry analysts Juniper Research - with revenues rising from $11.6bn in 2006 to $25.3bn by 2009.  According to Juniper, the substantial rise in revenues - expected to quadruple by 2011 to $40.8bn - will contrast with limited growth in telematics from $6.4bn to $11bn in the same period – owing to current widespread usage in many commercial vehicles due to legislation. Other outlets including security and surveillance, highway and public transport signs, and health care will show encouraging signs rising from a cumulative low of $2bn in 2006 to over $9bn by 2009."
  11:59:01 PM  permalink  


daily link  Tuesday, January 23, 2007


Amazon Tries Hand at Virtual Appliances:  "Amazon Machine Images or AMI [is] a packaged environment that includes all the necessary bits to set up and boot Amazon EC2 instances.  The company launched their Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) - Amazon's hosted, on demand virtual datacenter based on the Xen technology - with hopes of creating demand for a pay-per-use model of virtual machines. .. Amazon is now asking its EC2 community members to share their AMIs with other Amazon Web Services developers."  Amazon keeps a listing of public AMI's with RSS feed.  There's even a Windows AMI running under QEMU under Xen (whew!).  XML manifests are required for each AMI.
  6:42:50 PM  permalink  

XEN and the art of Virtualization:  Informative test run or the latest version, with screenshots.
  6:31:34 PM  permalink  

Replicate Technologies:  I resumed blogging for my new company today, with comments on operating systems and virtuailzation. Enjoy.
  5:48:35 PM  permalink  


daily link  Wednesday, January 17, 2007


Ford launches plug-in hybrid with hydrogen fuel cell:  Jan 2007:  "Ford launched a hydrogen-fuelled, battery-powered plug-in powertrain concept in the new Airstream concept vehicle this week at the North American International Auto Show. The system, trademarked HySeries Drive, is powered by a 336-volt lithium-ion battery pack at all times and has a range of 25 miles on a full electric power. Once the battery pack is depleted by about 40%, the hydrogen-powered fuel cell begins generating electricity to recharge the batteries, increasing range by another 280 miles, for a total driving range of more than 300 miles. ..The HySeries powertrain reduces the size, weight, cost and complexity of a conventional fuel cell system by more than 50%, and also promises to more than double the lifetime of the fuel-cell stack...

"You could take out the fuel cell and replace it with a hydrogen or diesel internal combustion engine," [the chief engineer] explained. "And instead of a six- or eight-cylinder engine, I could use a considerably smaller three- or two-cylinder engine as an auxiliary power unit to recharge the battery pack.""
  8:51:58 AM  permalink  


daily link  Monday, January 15, 2007


A World Free of Nuclear Weapons:  Long op-ed by George Shultz, William Perry, Henry Kissinger and Sam Nunn on both urgent and long-term measures to cut the nuclear threat.  Meanwhile, US policy is going the other way: see U.S. Selecting Hybrid Design For Warheads and Complex 2030: DOE's Misguided Plan to Rebuild the U.S. Nuclear Weapons Complex.  11:11:49 AM  permalink  


daily link  Sunday, January 14, 2007


Goodbye, 9 and 25 pins: I just unplugged what is probably my last serial connector. After 35 years of dialup and printing at speeds from 75 baud to 115kbps, I no longer own a non-USB serial device. I haven't used an external modem in years, and when my internal laptop modem broke two years ago, I never replaced it. The second-to-last serial device I had was a Palm cradle, also dropped years ago. Today, I finally unplugged an ISDN adaptor I had at home. I had used the ISDN line for fax and an extra phone line, and a last-ditch backup when the cable modem went out. It was easy to keep it around, but the phone charges weren't cheap, and I used it less and less. I got a Sunrocket SIP phone for the fax in December, and once I finally got SBC/ATT to transfer the number to Sunrocket, I cut off the ISDN. Unplugging the ISDN adaptor's 9-to-25 pin cable got me nostalgic, for slower times, for plugging in six cables and three devices and making several dialling attempts to do half of what my cell phone does from my pocket every minute of the day. (This picture was taken by that phone, 'natch).
  3:03:32 PM  permalink  


daily link  Monday, January 08, 2007


Bullish on PHEVsCalCars offers free downloads of the Alliance Bernstein report on pluggable hybrid vehicles.
  10:39:51 AM  permalink  

GM's Volt: GM introduces a concept car with hybrid drive and a 40-mile battery. Plans to introduce by 2010.
  10:21:27 AM  permalink  


daily link  Wednesday, January 03, 2007


Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) Overview:  Concise description of the architecture and pointers to today's products.
  11:04:21 AM  permalink  

Dollar going down:  Mini-fact: Dollar down by 30% in last 5 years.  "The United States dollar index, a measure of the dollar’s strength against a basket of currencies, fell to 83.23 from 83.65 on Friday. In February 2002, the index was at 120."
  12:01:04 AM  permalink  


daily link  Tuesday, January 02, 2007


Wal-Mart promotes CFLs:  More info about WalMart and compact fluorescent lightbulbs. An example of how irrational consumer choice is, by seeing how easily it's manipulated by merchandising; and how both environmental and economic results are far from optimal in a "free" market.  "Wal-Mart sold only 40 million [CF bulbs] in 2005, compared with about 350 million incandescent bulbs..

At the same time that it pressured suppliers, Wal-Mart began testing ways to better market the bulbs. In the past, Wal-Mart had sold them on the bottom shelf of the lighting aisle, so that shoppers had to bend down. In tests that started in February, it gave the lights prime real estate at eye level. Sales soared.

To show customers how versatile the bulbs could be, Wal-Mart began displaying them inside the lamps and hanging fans for sale in its stores. Sales nudged up further.

To explain the benefits of the energy-efficient bulbs, the retailer placed an education display case at the end of the aisle, where it occupied four feet of valuable selling space — an extravagance at Wal-Mart. Sales climbed even higher.

In August 2006, the chain sold 3.94 million, nearly twice the 1.65 million it sold in August 2005.."  They need to double again to hit 100m in a year.
  11:58:00 PM  permalink  


daily link  Thursday, December 28, 2006


Wal-Mart Pledges to Sell 100 Million Compact Fluorescents in '07:  "Nov. 30, 2006 - Wal-Mart has announced an ambitious campaign to sell 100 million compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) at its Wal-Mart and Sam's Club locations by the end of 2007.  .. [WalMart's] Ruben added. "Over the life of those bulbs, $3 billion can be saved in electrical costs and 20 million metric tons of greenhouse gases can be prevented from entering our atmosphere. This change is comparable to taking 700,000 cars off the road, or powering 450,000 single-family homes"
  12:13:34 AM  permalink  

Joel Makower commercializes greenbiz.com:  The green info market matures.  "I've just launched a for-profit media company, Greener World Media, which has taken over publishing of GreenBiz.com, et al, from their nonprofit home, the esteemed National Environmental Education & Training Foundation, where the sites had lived happily for the past five years.

Why a for-profit? In 1998-99, when the idea for GreenBiz.com was germinating, there was no business model for giving away information on the Internet. That clearly didn't stop a lot of people, but it stopped me. So, I created "the resource center on business, the environment, and the bottom line," as we dubbed ourselves, as a not-for-profit resource, relying on grants, sponsorships, and the kindness of strangers.

That model worked for a while, but it wasn't sustainable. (There's precious little philanthropic money available, at least in the green world, for a nonprofit organization whose prime mission is to serve the needs of business.) And things have changed: There is a business model now for online information services, based on advertising, sponsorship, and other revenue sources. And the world of green and sustainable business has exploded, with plenty of new products, services, and company initiatives to be promoted."  This is good news.  In my 2001-2 Stanford Digital Vision fellowship, I concluded that information sources for sustainable energy were needed, and were on their way thanks to tech advances in blogging and the natural growth of the community.  In the last 2 years, I've trimmed my own blogging in the topic area as others have other voices and services have grown. Now it seems to be completely mainstream.
  12:07:01 AM  permalink  


daily link  Wednesday, December 27, 2006


Wal-Mart's Solar Energy Vision:  Joel Mackower reports on Wal-Mart's "recently issued RFP, or request for proposal, to install solar energy systems on its stores in five states -- the largest procurement of solar ever proposed. Bids are due on January 5 .. Wal-Mart intends to notify the winner of the contract on February 28. ..

The confidential RFP document is part of the company's stated commitment "to reduce our overall greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent over the next eight years" and to "design a store that will use 30% less energy and produce 30% fewer greenhouse gas emissions than our 2005 design within the next 3 years," according to the RFP. ..

Wal-Mart says it will begin installing solar on its stores in five U.S. states: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, and New Jersey. The company anticipates that "that only a portion of the stores in each state will be physically and economically suitable for solar installations," according to the RFP. It calls for bids for projects to be carried out during 2007, but is asking bidders for "expansion or build-out plans, including projected prices and costs, over the next five years." ..

What's the impact of all this? Wal-Mart doesn't mention a specific purchase size, but my sources tell me that the company could put solar on as many as 340 stores in the next few years. Assuming that each store utilized about 300 kilowatts of solar panels (it could be as much as 500 kilowatts), we're talking roughly 100 megawatts of solar. To put that into perspective, the solar system currently being installed at Google headquarters in California -- the largest single corporate solar installation in history -- is 1.6 MW, about 1/60th the size.  Of course, it's unclear whether Wal-Mart will install solar in all of those locations. The company could look at the bidders' numbers and decide to install solar at only a handful of stores -- or none at all.

Assuming it moves forward with even a portion of its plans, Wal-Mart's move is significant, and historic. While a growing number of companies are staking their claim at being "carbon neutral" by purchasing power from developers of far-off wind farms or other large-scale installations, or have installed (often with much fanfare) solar panels on a single showcase facility, no one has yet made a long-term commitment to "alternative sources of energy at competitive prices and in a form that is replicable among multiple sites and multiple building formats," as Wal-Mart puts it."  11:41:31 PM  permalink  

FT.com - Richest 2% hold half the world's assets:  "Personal wealth is distributed so unevenly across the world that the richest two per cent of adults own more than 50 per cent of the world’s assets while the poorest half hold only 1 per cent of wealth .. according to the data from the World Institute for Development Economics Research of the United Nations University (UNU-Wider). ..

Adults with more than $2,200 of assets were in the top half of the global wealth league table, while those with more than $61,000 were in the top 10 per cent, [and] to belong to the top 1 per cent of the world’s wealthiest adults you would need more than $500,000, something that 37m adults have achieved.  So much of the world’s wealth is concentrated in few hands that if all the world’s wealth was distributed evenly, each person would have $20,500 of assets to use.

Almost 90 per cent of the world’s wealth is held in North America, Europe and high-income Asian and Pacific countries, such as Japan and Australia.  While North America has 6 per cent of the world’s adult population, it accounts for 34 per cent of household wealth.  The concentration of wealth in different countries varies considerably, with the top 10 per cent in the US holding 70 per cent of the country’s wealth, compared with 61 per cent in France, 56 per cent in the UK, 44 per cent in Germany and 39 per cent in Japan."
  11:30:13 PM  permalink  

Global Voices Online:  Interesting compilation of current blog material from citizens of many counties, including Lebanon, Libya, China, Iran, with coverage of local news.  Would provide interesting inputs to the "open source intelligence" movement.
  11:24:52 PM  permalink  

Inflated influence of India's IT-factor:   "In 2003, for example, India claimed to have exported US$8.7 billion worth of software, most of which went to the United States. But US companies recorded just US$420 million worth of software imports from India — a remarkable 20-fold difference.  The GAO believes that this huge inconsistency arises, in part, from India misreporting financial data. For instance, India counts the earnings of all temporary workers in the United States as part of their exports figures. But this is against universally-accepted financial disclosure conventions suggested by the International Monetary Fund. The result is a gross over-representation of Indian software exports.Several factors also point to a relatively small impact on economic development from India's IT industry. In 2005, for instance, the IT exports industry was a marginal job-creator, employing 770,000 people — just 0.21 per cent of the total labour force."
  11:16:04 PM  permalink  


daily link  Tuesday, December 26, 2006


Small car 'Reva' gets big funds:  "Venture funds are now seeing value beyong hot wireless and internet companies in India. India’s first and only electric car manufacturer, REVA Electric Car Company, has attracted a $ 20 m investment from Draper Fisher Jurveston, Global Environment Fund (GEF) and Mellon HBV Master Global Event Drive Fund LP, according to officials.  The company, which is joint venture between the Bangalore-based Maini group and the California-based AEV LLC, is looking at expanding overseas and consolidating its position in global markets with this funding. .. This is GEF’s first investment in India. ..

Reva has sold around 1000 cars in the domestic market and 600 in overseas markets. Apart from the United Kingdom, the company is targetting exports to USA, Norway, Switzerland, Cyprus, Japan, Srilanka and Malta. Its manufacturing plant, located in Banglaore, has an installed capacity of about 6,000 units. .. The entry model is priced around Rs 3 lakh [$6800].  Last year, the company collaborated with designer Dilip Chhabria and Encore, maker of the smallest tablet PC, to launch Reva-NXG. The model gives an extended 200 km per charge compared to the 80 km that is available on the entry model."
  7:41:04 AM  permalink  

Dealing with Tehran:  Assessing U.S. Diplomatic Options Toward Iran by former CIA official Flynt L. Leverett, The Century Foundation, 12/4/2006.  An op-ed version of this was blocked from publication by the CIA. It "lays out the essential features of a U.S.-Iranian grand bargain. If Washington does not begin to pursue such an arrangement vigorously and soon, the window for this kind of strategic understanding between the United States and the Islamic Republic is likely to close. Under these circumstances, Iran’s development of at least a nuclear weapons option in the next few years is highly likely.

Thus, if it does not pursue a grand bargain with Tehran, the United States almost certainly will have to take up the more daunting and less potentially satisfying challenges of coping with a nuclear-capable Iran. And the standing of the United States in the world’s most strategically critical region will continue its already disturbing decline."  See also commentary from Newsweek's James Dickey.  7:16:57 AM  permalink  

SoCal Edison to build massive wind farm: US wind projects scale up. "Southern California Edison on Thursday announced a deal with an Australian firm to build the largest wind energy facility ever built by a U.S. utility.  "This is triple anything that's ever been done. It's enormous," said Stuart Hemphill, director of renewable and alternative power for the Rosemead-based utility that supplies power to much of the Coachella Valley.  The 20-year contract, to purchase power from a 50-square-mile wind farm slated for the Tehachapi area about 75 miles northeast of Los Angeles, is with Allco Infrastructure of Sydney.  .. The deal with Allco, Hemphill said, allows SoCal Edison to begin to take advantage of the Tehachapi area's 4,500 megawatt wind energy potential."  Nearby areas (e.g., Palm Springs) have additional GW of capacity. 

More details:  "All of California's wind farms together produce 2,300 megawatts of power; the Edison deal by itself would boost that number by 65%.  The 1,500 megawatts in the new contract are enough to power nearly 1 million typical homes in Edison's 50,000-square-mile service territory.  The Edison project would produce more than twice the electricity of the biggest U.S. wind farm, near Abilene, Texas. ..

In California, all utilities are pushing to meet a goal of generating 20% of the state's power needs from renewable sources by 2010.  The looming deadline has triggered a flurry of new contracts by the energy companies lining up so-called green power.  Although the deal announced Thursday would double Edison's wind energy production, the utility said it would still struggle to meet the 2010 target.

Company executives said the first batch of power from the project was expected to come online in 2010, but additional supply would have to be phased in over several years.  The timeline — and the fate of the entire project — depends on whether and when the utilities can build a transmission line to carry the new wind power from the turbines to the state's power grid .. Edison and other utilities are working with state regulators on plans to construct the necessary transmission line. But the price tag is $1.8 billion, and the approval process for such projects can be contentious and lengthy."   I wonder what the rollout of big wind would look like with national government backing, like the Tennessee Valley Authority or Bonneville Power Administration had in past years.  This area has 4500 MW capacity, and it's news to grow to half that. 
  12:37:55 AM  permalink  

WaterHealth International Closes Series C Funding:  "WaterHealth International, Inc. (WHI) today announced the final close of its Series C funding for a total equity investment of more than $11 million.  SAIL Venture Partners, L.P., anchored the latest investment of $4 million.  Series A investor Plebys International LLC, founded and led by WHI CEO Tralance Addy, also invested in this round.  The new investments are in addition to the $7.25 million equity investment anchored by Dow Venture Capital that WHI announced last month.  

WHI has more than 450 installations of its water purification and disinfection systems in developing countries around the world.  This additional funding further strengthens WHI and will allow for accelerated growth in the company's target markets, primarily India and South Asia, West Africa, the Philippines and Mexico."  This is the product developed by Ashok Gadgil, which I've been following for a few years.  Glad to see it get substantial backing.

  12:25:16 AM  permalink  


daily link  Wednesday, December 13, 2006


Low temp geothermal: "PureCycle® geothermal power plant at Chena Hot Springs Resort in Alaska was selected as Project of the Year in the renewable/sustainable energy category by Power Engineering magazine.  .. The Chena Hot Springs Resort in Alaska has the first geothermal power plant in the state. It also is the site of the lowest temperature geothermal resource (165°F) ever used for commercial power generation in the world. The resort’s UTC Power PureCycle® geothermal system was commissioned in August and provides power for the resort’s on-site electrical needs. All 44 buildings at the resort – including a greenhouse, hotel, cabins and ice museum – are linked by a geothermal district heating system.More info:  "Although output from the installation is considered small for a base load power plant, the Chena plant represents a huge leap forward for moderate geothermal development and greatly expands the number of geothermal resources that can be economically developed. Prior to the operation of the power plant at Chena, the lowest temperature geothermal resource ever developed for commercial power generation was 208 F."  9:29:11 AM  permalink  

ADB lending for renewables growing:  "A financing facility of US$510 million has been approved to develop renewable energy resources in Pakistan. ADB (Asian Development Bank) will establish the ‘Renewable Energy Development Sector Investment Program’ to expand power supply in rural areas through 600,000 new connections to 4.8 million people. The multitranche financing facility is one of the first to be developed under ADB's evolving clean energy initiative, through which ADB plans to expand operations in developing countries to $1 billion per year.  “Small- to medium-sized hydropower plants offer the greatest renewable energy potential for Pakistan, while possibilities also exist in promoting greater use of wind, solar, and biomass power,” says Piya Abeygunawardena of ADB."  9:17:16 AM  permalink  


daily link  Thursday, December 07, 2006


Non-profit Discount - DreamHost:  Free web hosting for non profits from a reputable hoster.  (via John Sequeria).
  2:46:19 PM  permalink  


daily link  Wednesday, December 06, 2006


Carbon Neutral: Raising the Ante on Eco-Tourism: Another case where an initially obscure policy-wonk idea has rapidly gone mainstream. And the baggage tag is a nice touch... "Buzzword of the Year: carbon neutral. .. The term will be added to the New Oxford American Dictionary in 2007 ..

Several carbon-offset Web sites, like www.carbonoffsets.org or www.terrapass.com use an online “carbon calculator” to determine the approximate amount of carbon dioxide produced when they travel. Carbon offsets, usually anywhere from $5 to $30, depending on the length of the trip and the form of transportation, can be purchased through a growing number of travel companies. Expedia and Travelocity both rolled out new programs this year that let travelers buy carbon offsets. Travelers who buy offsets through Expedia and its partner TerraPass, a Web-based for-profit company in Menlo Park, Calif., for a medium or long-haul flight get a “Carbon Balanced Flyer” luggage tag. The charge is $5.99 to offset about 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide — the amount emitted, per passenger, on a round-trip flight of up to 2,200 miles; $16.99 for a cross-country flight of up to 6,500 miles; and $29.99 for an international flight of up to 13,000 miles."

  8:24:05 PM  permalink  

Anbar Picture Grows Clearer, and Bleaker:  "The U.S. military is no longer able to defeat a bloody insurgency in western Iraq or counter al-Qaeda's rising popularity there, according to newly disclosed details from a classified Marine Corps intelligence report that set off debate in recent months about the military's mission in Anbar province.  .. The Marines recently filed an updated version of [the August] assessment that stood by its conclusions ..

The report describes Iraq's Sunni minority as "embroiled in a daily fight for survival," fearful of "pogroms" by the Shiite majority and increasingly dependent on al-Qaeda in Iraq as its only hope against growing Iranian dominance across the capital. .. True or not, the memo says, "from the Sunni perspective, their greatest fears have been realized: Iran controls Baghdad and Anbaris have been marginalized." Moreover, most Sunnis now believe it would be unwise to count on or help U.S. forces because they are seen as likely to leave the country before imposing stability.

Between al-Qaeda's violence, Iran's influence and an expected U.S. drawdown, "the social and political situation has deteriorated to a point" that U.S. and Iraqi troops "are no longer capable of militarily defeating the insurgency in al-Anbar," the assessment found. ..  "Despite the success of the December elections, nearly all government institutions from the village to provincial levels have disintegrated or have been thoroughly corrupted and infiltrated by Al Qaeda in Iraq," or a smattering of other insurgent groups, the report says"

From the story on the August report:  "One Army officer summarized it as arguing that in Anbar province, "We haven't been defeated militarily but we have been defeated politically -- and that's where wars are won and lost." .. One possible solution would be to try to turn over the province to Iraqi forces, but that could increase the risk of a full-blown civil war. Shiite-dominated forces might begin slaughtering Sunnis, while Sunni-dominated units might simply begin acting independently of the central government."

The more recent story has a video shows Post correspondent Thomas Ricks reporting on an option circulating in the Pentagon to simply side with the Shiites and encourage formation of a large national Shiite-Kurdish army to restore order.  This might reduce the importance of Shiite radicals like Al Sadr. Nothing is said in that report about the subsequent fate of the Sunnis in that scenario.
  4:21:00 PM  permalink  

The Election Is in the Mail:  In the 2006 election, "there was one state where all went well: Oregon, where everyone votes by mail. Since Oregon adopted Vote by Mail as its sole voting option in 1998, the state’s turnout has increased, concerns about fraud have decreased, a complete paper trail exists for every election, recounts are non-controvertible and both major political parties have gained voters. Moreover, in doing away with voting machines, polling booths, precinct captains and election workers, the state estimates that it saves up to 40 percent over the cost of a traditional election. ..

[If this was nationwide,] the country’s 35,000 post offices could provide information, distribute and collect voting materials and issue inexpensive residency and address identifications for voting purposes. Perhaps most important, given the concerns about voting machine security, mail ballots cannot be hacked. Tampering or interfering with mail is a federal crime, and the United States Postal Service has its own law enforcement arm, which works closely with a variety of enforcement authorities including the F.B.I. Trained election clerks can take the time to check signatures without delaying or discouraging voters. And the advantages of a paper trail outshine the glitter of black box electronic gadgetry.

Already, in order to help businesses that send out big mailings, the Postal Service uses bar-code scanning to inexpensively track large volumes of mail from origin to destination. With minor but careful modifications, this technology can be adapted for use with ballots — allowing voters to check on their location and status by entering a tracking number on the Internet or by phone."
  10:04:41 AM  permalink  

L.A. Auto Show: CEO promises GM will make plug-in Saturn hybrid:  No specific timetable.  Still, it's encouraging how pluggable hybrids went from a fringe idea as recently as 2003 to GM-scale conventional wisdom in 2006.
  9:41:29 AM  permalink  


daily link  Wednesday, November 29, 2006


Biofuels via cellphone:  "More people would be likely to refuel with biodiesel if they knew where to find a filling station .. NearBio delivers a database of more than 1,000 biodiesel sellers to mobile phones via WAP (wireless access protocol) or text messaging. The free applet and service from WHDC of Nevada City, CA, provides driving directions, the phone number and the blends available at the five closest locations.

Since most of the diesel engines in the U.S. are inside of trucks, truck drivers who can factor biodiesel stations into their routes are the most likely beneficiaries of this service. The number of biodiesel stations is increasing rapidly and NearBio says it will add new locations within a day. "

  11:01:21 AM  permalink  

 

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