Ken Novak's Weblog
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Ken Novak's Weblog


daily link  Saturday, December 27, 2003


A year of thwarted ambition: ". Iraq is the first true test of that American imperial ambition and it has already served to suggest some of the limits to that power. "  12:09:23 AM  permalink  


daily link  Tuesday, December 23, 2003


Metacrap: "Putting the torch to seven straw-men of the meta-utopia."  Excellent rant y Cory Doctorow on why meta-data doesn't help much.  Jon Udell's comments on LinkedIn narrow user input, and the way that Google could derive better info than they ask for as metadata.  "I'm skeptical as to the benefit of a parochial reputation system such as LinkedIn, which requires extra effort to join, to feed with metadata, and to use. If we have (or are rapidly evolving) a global reputation system that can absorb and contextualize our routine communication, then parochial systems will need to deliver huge amounts of extra value. "

  2:53:20 PM  permalink  

BlogStreet : RSS Ecosystem: Neat collection of RSS processing tools, including

  • WAP reader
  • RSS generator from any web page
  • javascript panel for reading recent entries on a page
  • IMAP converter, so you can read RSS in a mail client
  2:35:56 PM  permalink  

Parkervision WLAN adaptors:  Products that promise 1 mile open field access, from a $200 access point and $100 PCcards or USB adapters.  Compatible with 802.11b and 802.11g as well.  Proprietary technology extends the range between their AP and their adaptor.

  2:24:48 PM  permalink  

Fast Internet Lines Jump 18 Percent in First Half '03: "High-speed Internet service [in the US] via cable showed a 20 percent jump, narrowly outpacing the 19 percent growth in digital subscriber lines (DSL) offered by traditional telephone lines."  Overall growth was 45% for year ending June 30, 2003.  8:58:26 AM  permalink  


daily link  Monday, December 22, 2003


The twilight of the tyrants: A list of the ones fallen, and ones left in power.  "Dictatorship is fading, but democracy doesn't always replace it..  "Apart from residual communism," argues Bernard Kouchner, the former United Nations administrator in Kosovo, "there are two sources of dictatorship: extreme poverty and oil." Almost all the energy-rich nations in the Middle East and Central Asia figure on Freedom House's list as among the least free in the world. At the same time, 37 of the 49 "not free" countries have an average per capita income of less than $1,500 a year. ..

Washington picks and chooses its targets when it comes to pressing autocrats. "If they don't like a government, such as Mugabe's, then democracy becomes the whipping instrument," says Nega. "They don't use it against governments they do like."  Such governments include Ethiopia's ruling People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, which claimed to have won 97 percent of the vote at the last elections, but has the virtue in American eyes of having offered support for the US 'war on terror,' as has Uzbek strongman Islam Karimov.  "That is one thing making Africans cynical about Western intentions," argues Nega. "You don't see any principled, consistent policy by the developed countries to push for democracy in Africa." ..

Mr. Palmer, the former US diplomat, who has just published the book "Breaking the Real Axis of Evil: How to Oust the World's Last Dictators by 2025," agrees.  "The key question is, have we actually changed? and I don't see any hard evidence beyond the rhetorical statements," he says. When the Saudi Arabian authorities arrested several hundred people protesting in Riyadh for greater political freedoms in October, Palmer recalls, "the State Department did nothing and said nothing." ..

"There are more interesting forms of international intervention than the use of military force," notes Ackerman. Milosevic's departure was bloodless because repressive security forces dropped their loyalty to his government.  "We have to tell dictators that if they don't let their people communicate freely, we won't let them communicate outside their countries, that if they won't allow their people to travel, we won't let them travel," Ackerman argues. "As people understand that dictators have tremendous vulnerabilities that can be exploited non-violently, the international community will get more innovative."

  12:26:09 PM  permalink  

Info-Share - Collaboration software for conflict management in Sri Lanka:  More details on the Sri Lanka peace process use of Groove called Info-Share, with contacts provided.  Collaboration spaces listed:

  • Track One, a "one text" negotiation space, where "a third-party facilitator draws out the stakeholders' underlying interests, help them create a series of proposals and ultimately assist them in selecting one."
  • Conflict Transformation Library, containing 400 MB of "documents and texts ranging from studies on child soldiers to handbooks on conflict resolution to a comprehensive audio-visual compilation of documents related to the on-going peace process"
  • Peace Partners, with a database of people in government and non-governmental agencies involved in the peace process, guides for donor support, and shared calendar
  • Peace Tools, "developed by experts in conflict resolution," with "a comprehensive way of mapping Sri Lankan peace process activities"
    • A map of conflict and analysis assessment;
    • A framework for conflict transformation and peace building;
    • A Sri Lankan multi-sector reconstruction framework;
    • A peace stakeholders framework
  10:19:04 AM  permalink  


daily link  Sunday, December 21, 2003


High Performance Zion Visitor Center - Photovoltaic Panels: Cool 360 degree views of Zion center, highlighting energy savings and generation, in a beautiful setting.  11:14:18 AM  permalink  

Groxis: knowledge management, data mining and information mapping tool called Grokker.  Currently searches your own data and creates clusters. Has announced plug-in to integrate Google search results, to be released in early January.  $49 with 30-day free trial.  11:11:54 AM  permalink  

DynDNS.org: Like zoneEdit, it offers dns, web redirection, mail queuing -- and domain registration.  11:06:31 AM  permalink  

Napster Runs for President in 04:  Many good observations on the Internet in the Dean campaign from NYT's Frank Rich:  "Rather than compare Dr. Dean to McGovern or Goldwater, it may make more sense to recall Franklin Roosevelt and John Kennedy. It was not until F.D.R.'s fireside chats on radio in 1933 that a medium in mass use for years became a political force. J.F.K. did the same for television, not only by vanquishing the camera-challenged Richard Nixon during the 1960 debates but by replacing the Eisenhower White House's prerecorded TV news conferences (which could be cleaned up with editing [like a newsreel]) with live broadcasts. Until Kennedy proved otherwise, most of Washington's wise men thought, as The New York Times columnist James Reston wrote in 1961, that a spontaneous televised press conference was "the goofiest idea since the Hula Hoop." ..

Dr. Dean runs the least personal of campaigns; his wife avoids the stump. That's a strategy befitting an online, not an on-TV, personality. Dr. Dean's irascible polemical tone is made for the Web, too. Jonah Peretti, a new media specialist at Eyebeam, an arts organization in New York, observes that boldness is to the Internet what F.D.R.'s voice was to radio and J.F.K.'s image to television: "A moderate message is not the kind of thing that friends want to e-mail to each other and say, `You gotta take a look at this!' ..

Thanks to the Supreme Court's upholding of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform, he also holds a strategic advantage over the Democratic National Committee in fund-raising, at least for now. ..

For all sorts of real-world reasons, stretching from Baghdad to Wall Street, Mr. Bush could squish Dr. Dean like a bug next November. But just as anything can happen in politics, anything can happen on the Internet. The music industry thought tough talk, hard-knuckle litigation and lobbying Congress could stop the forces unleashed by Shawn Fanning, the teenager behind Napster. Today the record business is in meltdown, and more Americans use file-sharing software than voted for Mr. Bush in the last presidential election. The luckiest thing that could happen to the Dean campaign is that its opponents remain oblivious to recent digital history and keep focusing on analog analogies to McGovern and Goldwater instead.  "

  10:58:52 AM  permalink  

Students assemble 'Big Mac' supercomputer: "University students at Virginia Tech have put together a cheap supercomputer using [1100] off-the-shelf G5 Power Macintosh computers. Students assembled the computer in a few weeks at a cost of $7 million US -- much less than research supercomputers used for weather simulations. The students call it "Big Mac," and it's ranked as the world's third-fastest supercomputer, at 10.3 trillion operations per second. "  The first and second ranked cost $250m and $215m.  10:05:29 AM  permalink  

Update on Quovix: "as it turns out, the community approach is good for the smallest jobs. Quovix has set up sub-communities that are good at things such as Java and feeds them, on a rotating basis, micro projects that take a few hours. Customers win because they normally can't find anyone willing to take on small projects, and Quovix developers get a steady enough stream of small jobs to make it worth their while." 

And an explanation from the CEO's Blog: "I don't really like selling us as an alternative to offshore outsourcing but, after four years, it seems to be the message that customers understand. Yes it is cheaper, yes, it does involve resources from around the world. The reason it's cheaper isn't because someone in Russia is willing to work for $7 per hour. In fact, we pay our members the same rate no matter where they live. It's cheaper because a) we don't have the overhead of people sitting around getting paid while requirements are being developed, b) we're not paying the team to train themselved on the toolsets that will be used, c) we don't engage highly skilled workers until all the upfront planning has been done and they can go immediately to work."

  10:01:40 AM  permalink  

More on Libya: After the Lockerbie settlement, "Congress and the Bush administration said sanctions would be maintained until Libya gave up its illicit weapons programs and links to terrorist organizations. That position, American and British officials said, forced Libya, economically crippled and desperate for the return of foreign oil companies, to consider the new concessions.  A State Department official said Libya felt an urgency to act because of the American stances on Iran and North Korea and the war in Iraq. An intelligence official said Colonel Qaddafi was also concerned about the threat to his government from militant elements in the country."  12:41:39 AM  permalink  

Why did Libya disclose and renounce WMD?: "Secret trips by American intelligence officers, late night meetings with Muammar Gaddafi and disclosures that the United States knew about Libya's arms programs led to Tripoli's pledge to give up its unconventional weapons, senior intelligence officials said on Saturday.. The American and British team was taken to dozens of sites, where they saw centrifuges and parts for centrifuges that appeared to be in working order. They also saw tons of sulfur mustard produced about a decade ago. .. When Libya learned how much the United States already knew about its weapons programs, that appeared to give Tripoli the final push to give up its banned weapons.."

  12:27:30 AM  permalink  


daily link  Friday, December 19, 2003


Facts of US energy use from correspondence:  The average US household spent $1338 on energy in 1997, consuming 101 million BTU of energy. This does not account for energy costs associated with generation and transmission of electrical energy consumed in the home. Accounting for these charges, the figure for domestic energy use is increased by about 70%.  Within household energy consumption, 40% is for appliances and lighting, 30% space heating, and 30% water heating and air conditioning. 

How could we reduce domestic energy consumption without compromise to function? Options could involve smart control systems to ensure that power is not consumed when associated functions are not in demand. Energy use in buildings (residences and offices) accounts for 27% of total end-use energy consumption in the US, comparable to use by industry (26%) and only slightly less than that consumed by transportation (38%).

  3:37:56 PM  permalink  

Making Web Services Work at Amazon [Dec. 09, 2003]: "In order to create conditions for success, the terms needed to protect the rights of both the developers and of Amazon itself. While providing a degree of openness in order to foster creativity and adoption, the license needed also to sustain Amazon's business model. Practical issues include ensuring data freshness and preventing excessive server load. These needs were met with licensing constraints including one API call per second, a ban on reselling data, storing non-price relevant data for 24 hours maximum and pricing data for 1 hour maximum, and a mandatory link to amazon.com.

The next issue was that of protocols. Should they support SOAP or XML over HTTP (that is, REST)? In the end Amazon provided both and let developers make the choice. Despite it being the "standard", only about 15% of Amazon web services calls are made with SOAP, the remainder with REST. "

  1:44:47 PM  permalink  

Project Cyrus: "The Cyrus Electronic Mail Project is continuing to build a highly scalable enterprise mail system designed for use in a small to large enterprise environments using standards based technologies. The Cyrus technologies will scale from independent use in small departments to a system centrally managed in a large enterprise. "  Open-source development based at Carnegie Mellon, using IMAP, IMSP, SSL, etc.  Many docs at The Cyrus Wiki, including Cyrus Technology Overview.  10:27:49 AM  permalink  


daily link  Thursday, December 18, 2003


Satellite Radio Extends Its Orbit.  Short review of players, services, programming.  8:51:50 AM  permalink  


daily link  Wednesday, December 17, 2003


Foresight Board Welcomes Lawrence Lessig, Amory Lovins, Christopher Hook:  "The new advisors will join a stellar group including Stewart Brand, Global Business Network; Jamie Dinkelacker, Ph.D., Advisor to NanoBusiness Alliance; Doug Engelbart, Ph.D., Bootstrap Institute; John Gilmore, Electronic Frontier Foundation; Prof. Arthur Kantrowitz, Dartmouth College; Ray Kurzweil, Kurzweil Technologies; Prof. Marvin Minksy, MIT; and Peter Schwartz, Global Business Network."
  6:32:27 PM  permalink  

USB phone sets: Interesting collection of handsets and desksets for pc-based phones, $50-90.  4:29:15 PM  permalink  

UC Berkeley Nano-Engineering:  Arun Majumdar has a group investigating nano materials for conversion of waste heat to electricity:  a Nano Thermal program, and Superlattices in particular.  11:37:56 AM  permalink  

Engineers Work on 'Smart' Bridges, Roads: "Though still unfinished, the Star City bridge is already loaded with 770 finely tuned sensors, 28 data-collection boxes and a central unit called the brain. Together, they make up what Shoukry says is the smartest bridge in the world.  "Smart" bridges and roads that communicate with their makers through built-in sensors are becoming more common as engineers worldwide try to determine whether long-held construction assumptions are correct or whether there are better ways to build.  ..

West Virginia's demonstration projects have yielded results. On the Corridor H project, the state learned that concrete slabs 20 feet long are prone to crack, while those 15 feet are not. The state of Pennsylvania, which had problems with cracks on Interstate 81, is changing its slab length based on those results, Roush says. "

  12:58:07 AM  permalink  


daily link  Tuesday, December 16, 2003


Iraqi Minister Scolds U.N. for Inaction Regarding Hussein: Choice quotes:  "Iraq's foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, accused the United Nations Security Council today of having failed to help rescue his country from Saddam Hussein, and he chided member states for bickering over his beleaguered country's future... Taking a harsh view of the inability of quarreling members of the Security Council to endorse military action in Iraq, Mr. Zebari said, "One year ago, the Security Council was divided between those who wanted to appease Saddam Hussein and those who wanted to hold him accountable. "The United Nations as an organization failed to help rescue the Iraqi people from a murderous tyranny that lasted over 35 years, and today we are unearthing thousands of victims in horrifying testament to that failure."  He declared, "The U.N. must not fail the Iraqi people again." ..

Mr. Zebari .. also took on countries like France that have expressed doubts about the current governing group. "As Iraqis," he said, "we strongly disagree with those of you that question the legitimacy of the present Iraqi authorities." He continued: "I'd like to remind you that the governing council is the most representative and democratic governing body in the region." He said, "The members of the Security Council should be reaching out and encouraging this nascent democracy in a region well known for its authoritarian rule.""

  9:52:54 PM  permalink  

Profile of Berkeley work on plastic semiconductors for both lighting and solar cells: “Practically, once the efficiency of the plastic solar cell reaches 10% or higher, it has a chance to compete with the silicon solar cell,” Yang says.  3:32:22 PM  permalink  

OECD Said to Reach Deal on Environmental Standards: "The 30 OECD nations have agreed in principle to strengthen environmental standards for companies bidding on contracts to build dams, power plants, roads and other projects around the world with funding from export credit agencies, U.S. officials said on Thursday. The officials called the pact on voluntary standards a boon to U.S. firms which have long said they were disadvantaged by having to respect the U.S. Export-Import Bank's environmental guidelines of while their rivals faced weaker or no standards. "  The beginnings of a code for the environment in trade?  As in other cases, it's driven by one nation's corporations working to force other nations up to their standards to level the playing field.  12:22:14 AM  permalink  

What will happen when a national political machine can fit on a laptop? Everett Ehrlich on the Internet and politics:  "According to [Nobel economist Ronald] Coase's theory, smaller information-gathering costs mean smaller organizations. And that's why the Internet has made it easier for small folks, whether small firms or dark-horse candidates such as Howard Dean, to take on the big ones..

For all Dean's talk about wanting to represent the truly "Democratic wing of the Democratic Party," the paradox is that he is essentially a third-party candidate using modern technology to achieve a takeover of the Democratic Party. Other candidates -- John Kerry, John Edwards, Wesley Clark -- are competing to take control of the party's fundraising, organizational and media operations. But Dean is not interested in taking control of those depreciating assets. He is creating his own party, his own lists, his own money, his own organization. What he wants are the Democratic brand name and legacy, the party's last remaining assets of value, as part of his marketing strategy. Perhaps that's why former vice president Al Gore's endorsement of Dean last week felt so strange ..

Nor is Dean alone. The same forces make the evangelical right a powerful force in the Republican Party. With its TV stations, membership lists and money, it is a party waiting to happen. When Republicans of more moderate stripes express concerns about the evangelicals "taking a walk" on the party, they are recognizing that underlying reality. The ability to have "virtual political parties" is the greatest challenge the two parties have ever faced."  Erlich predicts a Dean third party in 2008 if he loses in 2004, an evangelical party like the New York Conservatives, and more.

  12:16:34 AM  permalink  

Christopher Lydon Interviews Dick Morris: "From 1972 to 1999 or 2000 we had what I see as the Media Age in American politics--which empowered guys like me who do television commercials, fundraisers, fat-cat donors, special interests and a handful of people who became the new political elite.  But starting, I think, with Clinton beating impeachment in '99, and going through the Dean campaign of 2004... the media is losing its power in politics and the Internet is gaining it."

And still, apparently sophisticated people say "what's a blog?" and give Dick Morris the same blank stare they give you and me at the mention of this mysterious Internet transformation.  I wanted to hear what he tells the innocents and the doubters.  "Well," Morris said, "how do you think Bill Clinton survived impeachment but for blogs and MoveOn and all of that?  Where did the anti-globalization movement gets its strength from?  Certainly not the mainstream media!  Where did the right wing get its strength from?  And the anti-Clinton stuff?  Where is the Dean candidacy from?  If you just read the New York Times and Washington Post you get blindsided by all this stuff. "..

"Let's remember," Morris observed, "that the Internet is more male than female, more right-wing than left-wing, more upscale than downscale. .. The Republican base is seething with activity..   you can't think of any community that is better connected, and better wired to itself, than the religious community.  .. So I think this kind of viral bottom-up growth (which is what the Internet is all about) will be as much Republican as Democratic."  Audio online.  See also the interview of Joe Trippi, Dean's internet organizer.

  12:04:44 AM  permalink  


daily link  Monday, December 15, 2003


In Iraq's south, democracy buds: Short profile of caucus model of local control.  11:23:24 PM  permalink  

Telegraph: "Terrorist behind September 11 strike was trained by Saddam":  Are the Niger forgerers at it again?  Or is this for real?   "Iraq's coalition government claims that it has uncovered documentary proof that Mohammed Atta, the al-Qaeda mastermind of the September 11 attacks against the US, was trained in Baghdad by Abu Nidal, the notorious Palestinian terrorist. Details of Atta's visit to the Iraqi capital in the summer of 2001, just weeks before he launched the most devastating terrorist attack in US history, are contained in a top secret memo written to Saddam Hussein, the then Iraqi president, by Tahir Jalil Habbush al-Tikriti, the former head of the Iraqi Intelligence Service. The handwritten memo, a copy of which has been obtained exclusively by the Telegraph, is dated July 1, 2001 and provides a short resume of a three-day "work programme" Atta had undertaken at Abu Nidal's base in Baghdad. .. Abu Nidal, who was responsible for the failed assassination of the Israeli ambassador to London in 1982, was based in Baghdad for more than two decades."  Abu Nidal was murdered in Baghdad last year.  The memo is also said to document a "shipment," possibly uranium, from Libya via Syria to Iraq.   Also, "Dr Allawi has been named as the channel by which warnings that Saddam could use weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes reached the British Government."

Then again, Allawi has called some things right.  "Allawi has consistently urged the United States to work with honest military officers and civil servants from the old regime in the transition to a new Iraq. He told me in March 2002, a year before the US invasion, that America had to reassure Iraqis that it didn’t want to destroy their country, humiliate its army or punish ordinary Iraqis who cooperated with the Baath Party because they had no choice.   That strategy was clearly correct, in hindsight. Unfortunately, it was abandoned when US civilian administrator Paul Bremer decided last May to disband the Iraqi Army. This decision is now widely viewed as America’s biggest mistake in post-war planning. Allawi says he warned a meeting of top US generals that disbanding the army would create a dangerous “vacuum” in the country... Another unfortunate “twist,” says Allawi, was that disbanding the army and the Baath Party destroyed two power centers for Iraq’s Sunni Muslim minority, and convinced many Sunnis they had no place in the new Iraq. They began to revolt in the now-infamous “Sunni Triangle” north and west of Baghdad. Asked to describe the enemy, Allawi frankly blames “our own creation of the problem, changing Iraqis to be against us."

  5:44:11 PM  permalink  

Biculturalism: "What are the cultural differences between Unix and Windows programmers? There are many details and subtleties, but for the most part it comes down to one thing: Unix culture values code which is useful to other programmers, while Windows culture values code which is useful to non-programmers. This is, of course, a major simplification, but really, that's the big difference: are we programming for programmers or end users? Everything else is commentary."  Excellent review of what seems an interesting book by Eric S. Raymond, "The Art of UNIX Programming."  4:50:09 PM  permalink  

css Zen Garden: The Beauty in CSS Design: Great demo of CSS-based designs (downloadable too).  See also StrangeBanana, "a generator that automatically creates graphic webpage designs. You can see StrangeBanana at work by going to the StrangeBanana Generator page. What you see there will be a unique webpage design which have never been seen by anyone else before. If you want to, you can use that design for your own website"  4:34:53 PM  permalink  


daily link  Sunday, December 14, 2003


Bearing Questions, 4 New Iraqi Leaders Pay Hussein a Visit: Amazing confrontation with an unrepentant Saddam: "Throughout the meeting, Mr. Hussein was calm but often used foul language. Mr. Pachachi said he looked "tired and haggard." Mr. Bremer and General Sanchez, they said, did not speak, though Mr. Chalabi said Mr. Hussein was "deferential and respectful to the Americans." "You can conclude from that some aspect that he was reconciled to his situation," he said.

"The most important fact: Had the roles been reversed, he would have torn us apart and cut us into small pieces after torture," Mr. Chalabi said. "This contrast was paramount in my mind, how we treated him and how he would have treated us."

Mr. Rubaie said: "One thing which is very important is that this man had with him underground when they arrested him two AK-47's and did not shoot one bullet. I told him, `You keep on saying that you are a brave man and a proud Arab.' I said, `When they arrested you why didn't you shoot one bullet? You are a coward.' "  "And he started to use very colorful language," he said. "Basically he used all his French."

"I was so angry because this guy has caused so much damage," Mr. Rubaie added. "He has ruined the whole country. He has ruined 25 million people. And I have to confess that the last word was for me," he continued. "I was the last to leave the room and I said, `May God curse you. Tell me, when are you going to be accountable to God and the day of judgment? What are you going to tell him about Halabja and the mass graves, the Iran-Iraq war, thousands and thousands executed? What are you going to tell God?' He was exercising his French language.""

  10:53:36 PM  permalink  


daily link  Saturday, December 13, 2003


Information and Communication Technologies, Poverty and Development and Lessons Learned from Seventeen infoDev Projects :  Two long and well-researched papers produced by the World Bank InfoDev program for the 2003 WSIS.  12:40:28 PM  permalink  


daily link  Friday, December 12, 2003


World economic forum stats on telecomm:Interesting country comparisons, including "Countries Where the Number of Cellular Mobile Telephones Subscribers Exceeds the Number of Main Telephones Lines in Operation, as of 2002".  3:53:41 PM  permalink  

Thin chrystalline solar cells:  "In the laboratory of the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE, thin crystalline solar cells have been produced with a thickness of 37 micrometres (µm) and an efficiency value of 20.2 %. In comparison, current industrial cells are comparatively thick - 300 µm (= 0.3 mm) - and significantly less efficient, with a value of 16 %.  A decisive step leading towards the successful result is a process which has been developed and patented by Fraunhofer ISE for back-surface contacting of the solar cell [with] LFC technology (laser fired contacts) .. 

The existing slow and expensive photolithographic processing steps for the back contact are no longer needed. In conventional, laboratory processes for highly efficient cells, considerable effort is needed to open small holes in the insulating layer, and then deposit the back-surface electrode of aluminium.  "In LFC processing, we evaporate the aluminium layer directly onto the passivation layer and then fire through the metal with a laser to create the local contacts", explained Stefan Glunz, the co-ordinator of work at the Institute on monocrystalline silicon solar cells. This process is inexpensive, requires only one second per solar cell, does not impose significant stress on the material, and functions for all wafer thicknesses and doping levels, making it ideal for industrial mass production."

  12:56:57 PM  permalink  

Hidden Cameras:Long, readible, well-researched article on how to find hidden cameras. Much real-world info.  11:37:11 AM  permalink  

No privacy in public?: "Even in a public place, we feel we have some privacy. But how much privacy do we actually have?"  Brief discussion of issues raised in TV airing of surveillance footage.  11:36:19 AM  permalink  

Pentagon diplomacy: "Even the White House was caught off guard by the timing of the announcement. The New York Times reported that President Bush and other White House officials were "fuming" as the announcement coincided with a campaign by President Bush to convince France, Germany and Russia to forgive Iraqi debts owed for past oil contracts, and to accept his new special representative responsible for restructuring Iraqi finances, former Secretary of State James Baker. Wolfowitz, in a memo posted to the Pentagon Web site hours before Bush's talks, said that, "It is necessary for the protection of the essential security interests of the United States to limit competition for the prime contracts of these procurements to companies from the United States, Iraq, coalition partners and force contributing nations," further angering countries that had provided other kinds of support. "What we did was toss away our leverage," a senior State Department official told the Times. "We could have put together a policy that said, "The more you help, the more contracts you may be able to gain." Instead, said the official, "we found a new way to alienate them." "  11:13:59 AM  permalink  

Internet Scout Project - SPT: "The Scout Portal Toolkit (SPT) allows groups or organizations that have a collection of knowledge or resources they want to share via the World Wide Web to put that collection online without making a big investment in technical resources or expertise... Although the default settings on a newly-installed Portal Toolkit will be optimized to allow a portal builder to set up a useful portal site with a minimum of effort, there will still be some aspects that the builder will need or want to configure themselves. To allow the non-technical builder to perform this task the Toolkit includes a web-based configuration tool that does not require any knowledge of HTML, Unix, or other behind-the-scenes technical details."  9:30:24 AM  permalink  

What Are Topic Maps? Interesting XML format for organizing web-based info. "The most common use for topic maps right now is to build web sites that are entirely driven by the topic map, in order to fully realize the their information-finding benefits. The topic map provides the site structure, and the page content is taken partly from the topic map itself, and partly from the occurrences. This solution is perfect for all sorts of portals, catalogs, site indexes, and so on." Several resources are listed, including a tool collection.  9:23:51 AM  permalink  


daily link  Thursday, December 11, 2003


Harris & Harris Group Inc.: A publicly traded VC fund, trading under NASDAQ "TINY". Holds Nanosys and several other investments.  9:51:11 PM  permalink  

Bandwidth Arbitrator: "The Linux Bandwidth Arbitrator was designed specifically to enhance response times for email, chat, and web clients on heavily used networks. Users who consistently download large files are automatically scaled back. This utility has been proven by over 2000 customers to greatly enhance the perceived speed of their networks."  9:15:30 AM  permalink  

How to cut emissions, etc: "U.S. Climate Change Technology Program November 2003 inventory of technologies to fight climate change.  12:04:05 AM  permalink  


daily link  Wednesday, December 10, 2003


worldKit :: easy web geovisualization :: Examples: "WorldKit is an easy to use and highly flexible mapping application for the Web. It's a Flash based app, configured entirely by XML and requires no programming or extra software. It's in the style of World as a Blog, with many more features: customizable design elements, multiple projections, thumbnails to plot paints, ...

If you have any sort of geographic information .. such as environmental data, weblog, site visitors, travel diary, photo albums, news .. on worldwide or local scale, check out worldKit. Take a look at the examples, and the manual. Download for free, for personal or non-commercial use."

  11:59:53 PM  permalink  

Plan  B if Kyoto fails: "does the world have a plan B for bringing the emissions of greenhouse gases under control?
  Contraction & Convergence model

The answer is yes, and it goes by the name "contraction and convergence", or C&C. The idea has been around for a decade, but lately it has been gaining ever more influential converts, such as the UK's Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, the UN Environment Programme, the European Parliament and the German Advisory Council on Global Change [and] the World Council of Churches"

  11:34:55 PM  permalink  

LETTER FROM ASIA; China Is Romping With the Neighbors While U.S. Is Distracted: "Karim Raslan, a Malaysian lawyer and writer who traveled to Washington recently on a Fulbright scholarship, put it this way. The American ''obsession'' with terror seems tedious to Asians, he said. ''We've all got to live, we've all got to make money,'' said Mr. Raslan. ''The Chinese want to make money and so do we.'' ..

In Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines (and to a lesser extent Thailand), Washington's primary concern is the presence of Islamic militants. China's main interest is to scoop up what it can for its modernization. Indonesians have come to call this new relationship with Beijing as ''feeding the dragon.''  ..

Not everyone is convinced that China's courtship of the region will last forever. ''They're making progress because we're invisible and distracted; or bull-headed when we do show up,'' said Robert L. Suettinger, the author of the recent book ''Beyond Tiananmen'' and a member of the National Security Council during much of the Clinton administration. ''There's no natural condominium for China in Southeast Asia. But I think it would behoove us to pay a bit more attention.''  But the more provocative Mr. Przystup counters, ''Today, China is East Asia's great power.''

  9:56:14 PM  permalink  


daily link  Tuesday, December 09, 2003


Strix Systems - Networks Without Wires: "Strix Systems, a provider of enterprise-class Wireless LAN systems, offers its Access/One Network, for quick deployment without Ethernet cables. Access/One Network combines multiple radio technologies - 802.11b/a/g and 802.15.1 Bluetooth - and uses innovative system software in a mesh network to distribute intelligence and switching throughout the network."  Nifty-looking little stackable boxes for rapid deployment of wireless networks in "ethernet-unfriendly" buildings.   11:14:33 AM  permalink  

Ebay makes a business of its online auction data: "This year it quietly began licensing that information to about 20 customers, who each pay $10,000 a year and up for access, said Randy Ching, vice president of platform solutions at eBay. 
While the direct revenue benefit to the company is relatively modest -- eBay's revenues are expected to be as much as $2.1 billion this year -- the company will focus on its data business in the coming year as it works to establish its information as the "de facto guide for buy and selling", Ching said... , PGA.com's Value Guide sets the market value for a used Ping Eye 2 Driver at between $10.09 and $19.08 based on 374 transactions. Other customers include Intuit Inc.'s (Nasdaq:INTU - news) Its Deductible division, which depends on eBay information to help users of its TurboTax tax preparation software to figure the fair market value of their donated items -- from used jeans to hard-to-value gadgets like cell phones.  Elsewhere, Andale Inc. uses the data in its Sales Analyzer software that helps eBay sellers price their items most effectively. "

  9:43:13 AM  permalink  


daily link  Monday, December 08, 2003


International and Homeland Security: Interesting ongoing roundup of homeland security topics, including stories about sensor and camera networks deployed at airport and city centers, and nanotechnology programs for h.s.  "At secret locations in at least 31 cities, the government has deployed devices that scour the air for deadly agents such as anthrax and smallpox with hopes of sniffing out bioterrorism. But the effort has been viewed with skepticism..   A program manager at Los Alamos National Labs commented, "Some people want to find one little box that will do everything, but we need to focus on a family of technologies." He estimated that 40 percent of an over-all government allocation of $2 billion to $3 billion will fund new detection systems...  A team from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tennessee has installed the "SensorNet," a system of about 20 sensor packages, around Washington, D.C. at secret locations that include rooftops, cellular phone towers and at street-level that can detect chemical, biological and radioactive agents. The experimental system, which could possibly lead to a national detection system, is scheduled to be operational by August. Other trial sensor networks are in place in Boston subways, San Francisco airport, the port of Miami, and a chemical-sensor system recently went operational on the Washington, D.C. subway"  1:17:32 PM  permalink  

Nation-Building in Iraq: Lessons From the Past: Clarity on what is needed in Iraq and elsewhere for nation building, from James Dobbins.  Formerly staff in both Republican and Democratic administrations, with responsibilities in Afghanistan, Kosovo, Bosnia, Haiti and Somalia, and currently at Rand, his new book lays it out (with commentary from NYT's M. Gordon):  

  • "the Bush administration, he argues, has such disdain for anything associated with former President Bill Clinton that it largely ignored useful lessons from recent United States peacekeeping operations. To the extent it looked to history, the Mr. Bush's administration turned to the American occupation of Germany and Japan more than half a century ago.  It was, Mr. Dobbins says, a costly exercise in "political correctness."  ""Iraq in 2003 looks more like Yugoslavia in 1996 than Germany and Japan in 1945," Mr. Dobbins says. [including multiple ethniciticies, Muslim populations,  weak industrial economy, less-than-total devastation]
  • Mr. Dobbins cites a rough strategic rule of thumb from the Balkans. It takes about 20 peacekeepers for each 1,000 civilians to safeguard the peace. Applying that rule to Iraq would yield a peacekeeping force of more than 450,000 in Iraq.. . Those are the sorts of calculations [used before the war by] former Army chief of staff Eric K. Shinseki
  • "Occupied people look first for security," Mr. Dobbins said. "If you provide security, they will provide cooperation. If you are not providing security, they will remain passive, uncommitted and will allow extremists to circulate in their midst."
  • [At this time] "A provisional government does seem to me to be feasible and almost inevitable," Mr. Dobbins said. "The opportunity to be able to more methodically put in place the prerequisites for a genuine democratic system before you move to Iraqi self-government has been lost."

Three actions are recommended:

  • Set up the provisional government
  • replace Bremer and CPA by an international administration, headed by a new UN high commissioner for Iraq.
  • NATO should take on the peacekeeping mission in Iraq.

"Mr. Dobbins believes it is important to quickly grant the Iraqis more sovereignty by establishing a provisional government, he also argues that a group of unelected Iraqi officials cannot be relied on to continue the trend toward democracy. So oversight is needed. But it needs to be a truly international oversight, he argues, to share the burden for the occupation and give it more legitimacy inside and outside Iraq.  The Bush administration is unlikely to cede control to an international body. One of the administration's objections, Mr. Dobbins reports, is that such a move would enable an international organization, and not the United States, to decide when the nation-building mission was over and when the troops could leave. That could mean that the effort could drag on for years, as it has in the Balkans." But Dobbins says that's inevitable and probably desirable.  Moreover, I wonder if the neocons want keep US bases in Iraq for operations in the region longer than a provisional government and an international body might allow.

  9:14:49 AM  permalink  

Hillary, Hawk: She represents my opinion; I guess I miss the Clinton years. "When Tim Russert on "Meet the Press" gave her the opening to say she had been misled when she voted for the Senate resolution authorizing war, Senator Clinton countered with a hard line: "There was certainly adequate intelligence without it being gilded and exaggerated by the administration to raise questions about chemical and biological programs and a continuing effort to obtain nuclear power." On forgotten Afghanistan, like many hawks, she was critical of the failure of European nations "to fulfill the commitment that NATO made to Afghanistan. I don't think we have enough American troops and we certainly don't have the promised NATO troops."..

Here is a Democrat who has no regrets for voting for the resolution empowering the president to invade Iraq; who insists repeatedly and resolutely that "failure is not an option"; who is ready to send in a substantially greater U.S. force to avert any such policy failure -- and yet whose latest poll ratings show her to be the favorite of 43 percent of Democrats, three times the nomination support given front-runner Howard Dean."

  12:04:31 AM  permalink  


daily link  Sunday, December 07, 2003


Doubts grow on WMD claim: "The Sunday Telegraph yesterday published an interview, in which the Iraqi said he passed secret information to British intelligence warning that the dictator had deployed WMD to the frontline. However, last night, question-marks were gathering around the story, not least over the man's claims that the Iraqi-made WMD warheads were to be fired on the battlefield by hand-held rocket-propelled grenade launchers, a weapon of very limited range."  He didn't know for a fact what they held, but guessed based on procedures.  ""We cannot determine exactly, but the procedures taken show that these were indeed WMD," he said. "It might have been chemical or biological but it was definitely unconventional weapons.""  10:36:42 PM  permalink  

CBEN The Environmental Implications of Nanotechnology: Rice University nano research center focuses on environmental impacts:  "The research in this theme area endeavors to guarantee that nanotechnology emerges as a positive, powerful tool for improving our environment. Two project areas look at the fabrication and applications of membranes in which nanochemistry has provided fine control over pore density, morphology and surface chemistry. Chemistry, modeling and environmental technology are blended in these collaborative programs aimed at the production of better water treatment systems, catalytic supports and filters. The third project area measures the potential for nanostructures to influence the fate and transport of organic and inorganic contaminants in water.  .. This information makes it possible to anticipate the unintended consequences of passive sorption onto nanoparticles in waste streams; in addition, it also provides a springboard for the intentional design of separable nanoparticles able to sequester waste products. Future work in this area will expand to include the interaction of nanoparticles with biological systems, such as bacteria, so as to enable the center to develop a comprehensive environmental impact statement for nanomaterials."  8:03:25 PM  permalink  

The File-Sharing Debates: "Why do the publishers and movie studios let the library get away with it? For that matter, why don't they object to the Blockbusters of the world, who let people rent movies by the millions?’   “The answer is, ‘Because they don’t have a choice.’

Copyright law requires copyright holders to give up their ability to control distribution of those works once they have put them into the stream of commerce. This principle, commonly referred to as the ‘first sale doctrine,’ is codified in Section 109 of the Copyright Act. The first sale doctrine gives libraries and video retailers the right to rent and sell prerecorded videos and video games without the authorization of the copyright holder.” 

Hmm. I wonder if a vendor supplied a tivo-like Internet appliance, and did a Netflix-type subscription service, so my in-house appliance always had a certain limited amount of digital content ready to go.  The appliance network vendor could prove that only an exact limited number of copies of any given work was in appliances at any one time. 

  6:37:40 AM  permalink  

Iraqi source of 45-minute WMD claim: "Lieutenant-Colonel al-Dabbagh, who said he was the head of an Iraqi air defence unit in the desert .. explained that the weapons he was talking about were battlefield weapons to be fired from rocket-propelled grenades, and were not for use in missiles. "They arrived in boxes marked 'Made in Iraq' and looked like something you fired with a rocket-propelled grenade," Col al-Dabbagh told The Sunday Telegraph. "They were either chemical or biological weapons; I don't know which, because only the Fedayeen and the Special Republican Guard were allowed to use them. All I know is we were told that when we used these weapons we had to wear gas masks." When shown the information about the 45-minute claim in the Iraq WMD dossier issued by the Government in September 2002, he said: "I am the one responsible for providing this. Forget 45 minutes, we could have fired these within half an hour." ..

Col al-Dabbagh said he had no idea what became of the weapons he was describing. He believed the weapons would not be found until Saddam was caught or killed, as people would then feel freer to speak about them. "

  6:27:14 AM  permalink  


daily link  Saturday, December 06, 2003


Austin going solar in a big way: " In a near-complete turnaround from its public position just a week ago, Austin Energy has announced plans to adopt specific, highly ambitious, and undeniably expensive goals for adding solar energy to the Austin electric and economic mix. At a town hall meeting held Tuesday night to discuss the AE plan -- also the subject of a public hearing at City Council today (Thursday) -- AE's Roger Duncan announced the utility's commitment to develop 15 megawatts of solar generating capacity by 2007, escalating to 100 megawatts by 2020. The AE plan also calls for a study of the "comprehensive value" of solar power -- putting a dollar amount on the economic and environmental benefits ..

Brewster McCracken -- the emcee of the town hall meeting -- and Mayor Will Wynn were both in attendance to reiterate their support for making Austin the "home of the international clean-energy industry" (in McCracken's words) -- a goal toward which, advocates feel, AE's solar commitment is a giant first step. ..

"We will try to meet 100 percent of new load growth" -- that is, customer demand -- "with conservation and renewables if at all possible," said Duncan. "We're trying to get off natural gas entirely." "

  11:49:22 PM  permalink  

Dirty Bomb Rockets Vanish: Long and vivid story in the Washington Post:  "In the ethnic conflicts that surrounded the collapse of the Soviet Union, fighters in several countries seized upon an unlikely new weapon: a small, thin rocket known as the Alazan. Originally built for weather experiments, the Alazan was transformed into a terror weapon, packed with explosives and lobbed into cities. Military records show that at least 38 Alazan warheads were modified to carry radioactive material, effectively creating the world's first surface-to-surface dirty bomb [with an 8-mile range]. The warheads are not known to have been used. But now, according to experts and officials, they have disappeared.

[There are] 50 cases in which the [Alazan] rockets were used in clashes, by both guerrilla fighters and government forces. In most incidents, Alazans were fired indiscriminately at civilian targets, often crowded urban centers. .. One document described an inventory of 38 "isotopic radioactive warheads of missiles of the Alazan type," including 24 that were attached to rocket. In the two other documents, the commander requested technical help in dealing with radiation exposure related to storage of the warheads. .. the last known location of the weapons was a military airfield north of Tiraspol, but what happened to them after the 1990s remains a mystery.

When the Soviet army withdrew from this corner of Eastern Europe, the weapons were deposited into an arsenal of stupefying proportions. In fortified bunkers are stored 50,000 tons of aging artillery shells, mines and rockets, enough to fill 2,500 boxcars. Conventional arms originating in Transdniester have been turning up for years in conflict zones from the Caucasus to Central Africa.. "For terrorists, this is the best market you could imagine: cheap, efficient and forgotten by the whole world," said Vladimir Orlov, founding director of the Center for Policy Studies in Moscow, a group that studies proliferation issues. . Organized crime figures and reputed terrorists flit in and out of the region ..

Moldova has pressed Russia to remove the munitions [stockpile] and the 2,800 Russian troops who guard them [600 miles from the Russian border]. But over the years, both Russia and Transdniester have used a variety of excuses to block or delay their departure." " Instances of traffic in antiaircraft missles are mentioned, inlcuding one well-documented in 1999.

"Once the industrial heartland of the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic, Transdniester has a long history as a production center for arms and weapons, including machine guns and rockets. Today, the tradition continues in at least six sprawling factories. .. Among the weapons in production are Grad and Duga multiple-rocket launchers, antitank mines, rocket-propelled grenades and multiple lines of small arms.."

  11:00:37 PM  permalink  

There They Go Again: Dean's many weaknesses as a nominee.  "If the Democrats are serious about governing, they should remember the words of one of their nominees, Adlai Stevenson. After one of his typically brilliant campaign speeches, someone shouted out to Stevenson from the crowd that he had the votes of all thinking Americans. Stevenson shouted back, saying that wasn't enough: "I need a majority!" "  7:06:24 AM  permalink  

Clean Edge solar report: "What will it take to transform solar energy from a niche resource into a competitive, mainstream technology - and beyond, to serve society with solar's full promise? This Solar Opportunities Assessment Report, or SOAR, attempts to answer that simple but complex question and offer some possible pathways forward. It focuses on three pathways for solar's future over the next quarter-century: Current Growth, Accelerated Growth, and Hypergrowth, and describes the challenges and opportunities within each. ..  We propose one potential vision, which we've dubbed the SHINE -- Solar High-Impact National Energy -- Project. The SHINE Project calls for 290 gigawatts of cumulative installed PV in the U.S. by 2025, providing 10% of total U.S. electricity consumption."  6:53:31 AM  permalink  

E7 Renewables reports: "The e7, an organization of nine leading electricity companies, has released two new reports that share the companies knowledge in understanding and helping to remove barriers to the diffusion of renewable energy technologies and the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). The first report, Renewable Energy Technology Diffusion, .. presents guidelines to help individual stakeholders execute the focused, committed actions necessary to address microbarriers, and recommendations to guide the broad, coordinated initiatives that are appropriate to address macrobarriers.

The second publication is The e7 Guide to Implementing Projects Under the Clean Development Mechanism. .. Since its formation in 1992, the e7 has assembled a wealth of experience related to electricity sector projects in developing countries. This experience underlies the new e7 CDM Guide. "

  6:39:38 AM  permalink  

Imagine Islands Entirely Powered by Renewable Energy: "Software company Artificial Life has unveiled its first educational online game called Eco Champ which specifically aims to educate and entertain with renewable energy as the focus. .. The company said they are targeting young Asian students aged between 12 and 18 years and secondary schools in Greater China and Asia. .. A player has to maintain the power level of a virtual island by installing renewable energy sources of six different kinds: wind, solar, wave and tidal, hydro, geothermal and biogas in the appropriate locations by taking into account the most relevant factors for the efficient use of these resources in the corresponding locations such as wind, temperature patterns and elevation level. "EcoChamp Home PageScreen-Shots

  6:35:24 AM  permalink  

Socialtext -- Enterprise Social Software: "The service runs on Socialtext's own Kwiki implementation of the wiki standard. Each Socialtext account gets 1GB of storage per member and has no bandwidth limit... You can assign one or more categories to each page and view all the pages in a category as a blog. Members can e-mail new pages to the wiki, optionally specifying categories. By the time you read this, each Socialtext account should able to launch as many different wikis as needed and invite the appropriate team members. " $30/mo per user.  6:27:26 AM  permalink  

The End Of The Laptop?: "Home servers and smartphones will eventually replace notebook computers for most users." Ends with nice summary of Treo tools, noting they still require too much user customization.  12:40:28 AM  permalink  


daily link  Friday, December 05, 2003


The Human Footprint: Neat maps of the spread of human actiivty.  4:33:55 PM  permalink  

WaveCrest: Technology: Adaptive Motor  A company that makes smart motors:  with microprocessor, DSP, single brushless moving part, and internally redundant design, it claims to deliver optimium power at every speed, regenerative breaking, and with only one moving part.  Applications planned in smaller devices (electric bikes for the military and police, wheelchairs, industrial generators and motors), building towards cars and mass transit.  "In addition to acceleration, the motor can provide system functions such as braking and steering, thus eliminating many heavy and complex mechanical components. Because of the motor's tremendous low-speed torque and high response time, it can be used to replace costly advanced vehicle systems such as anti-lock braking, traction control and vehicle stability systems. Merging all these functions can lead to a smaller, lighter and less expensive vehicle."  Wesley Clark is on the board of directors.

  4:32:50 PM  permalink  

Wesley Clark position papers:  The current collection, including a good enviro piece (thanks to DS).  10:56:08 AM  permalink  

Cringely on software failures: "Software development projects fail all the time, no matter what their size. The Standish Group, an IT-research firm in West Yarmouth, Mass., has been keeping track of this phenomenon since 1994, and the good news is that we are doing much better at completing projects than we used to. The bad news is that in 2000, only 28 percent of software projects could be classed as complete successes (meaning they were executed on time and on budget), while 23 percent failed outright (meaning that they were abandoned). Those numbers are improvements over a 16 percent success rate and a 31 percent failure rate when the first study was done in 1994. ..

According to the Standish Group, more than $275 billion will be spent on software development this year, covering about 250,000 projects. That means that if the recent success and failure percentages apply, $63 billion in development costs will go down the toilet in 2003 alone."  Cringely applies this to touch screen voting after 2000: who wouldn't expect it to fail?

  8:37:49 AM  permalink  


daily link  Thursday, December 04, 2003


If Geology Is Destiny, Then Russia Is in Trouble: The problems of "petrostates" summarized:  political underdevelopment, overvalued currencies, economic swings from erratic oil prices, low employment, polarized distribution of wealth.   9:37:29 PM  permalink  

Head Out (Wirelessly) on the Highway: Hundreds of truckstops are offering WiFi for truckers.  Key value is ease of access, and privacy, when using a laptop in the truck cab without even going out.  Business uses include checking road and weather conditions, and sending photos: "Mr. Tindall, a Persian Gulf war veteran from Edwards, Mo., also travels with a digital camcorder for shooting pictures and movies that he views, edits and e-mails from his laptop computer. In the event of an accident, he can easily transfer photos of the damage to the laptop and e-mail them to the company "so they can see the damage right away and decide where to get you fixed," he said.

Martin Fisher, a 39-year-old Canadian trucker who sometimes works as a photographer, recently picked up a load of damaged goods, but he did not have to worry much about lost time or disputed claims. "I was able to take pictures and send it to my dispatcher right away," Mr. Fisher said. "

  9:33:01 PM  permalink  


daily link  Wednesday, December 03, 2003


What Strategists Can Learn from Sartre: Echoes of the Forum, from a GBN founder. "Five Principles of Existential Strategy:

  1. Finitude. You can’t be all things to all people. If you’re not saying “no” to some possibilities, then you’re not acting strategically.
  2. Being-Toward-Death. No one is too big to fail, to die, to go bankrupt. Gliding on momentum can lead to a crash.
  3. Care. Define your interests more precisely than ROI or return to shareholders. If you don’t know where you stand, you’ll fall for anything.
  4. Thrownness. You have a past; you have experiences and core competencies. Know them, use them, and don’t forget them.
  5. Authenticity. Don’t be bound by your past. Feel free to reinvent yourself and your company for an uncertain future. "
  9:21:39 AM  permalink  


daily link  Tuesday, December 02, 2003


Sun Power wins contract for Oroville solar power project: "San Rafael-based Sun Power & Geothermal Energy Inc. said Monday it won an $8.4 million contract to design and build a one-megawatt solar photovoltaic system for the Butte County Center [administration building and 2 jails] in Oroville. .. Four solar arrays made of more than 9,000 185-watt modules will generate all power for the buildings. Funding for the system will be matched 50 percent by a renewable energy rebate from Pacific Gas & Electric Co." Projected operation: June 2004 (8 months install). $8.40/watt total system cost.  By my calcuations, that's a simple payback period of 30-40 years.  Total system installed cost would have to drop by 4x to compete without subsidy with the PGE grid.  11:32:05 PM  permalink  

5 Commandments:  Annotated history of laws from Moore, Metcalfe, and 3 others.  11:14:30 PM  permalink  

Stacking chips without wires and solder: "Everybody complains about the long wires on circuit boards that limit the speed of inter-chip communication. But, now engineers at Sun Microsystems [have] eliminated the need for them entirely.

Sun’s solution is to put the chips close enough to one another so that they can communicate directly, without using wires at all. Called proximity communication, the technique is the brainchild of Sun vice president Ivan E. Sutherland, best known for cofounding Evans and Sutherland, a groundbreaking computer graphics company, back in the late 1960s.  The technique, explains Robert Drost, a principal investigator on the project, relies on capacitive coupling. "When two conducting structures are close to one another, an electrical signal on one of them causes an electrical signal to appear on the other," he says.

So, in place of the conventional output pads to which wires would be bonded, the engineers built an array of small metal plates, 50 nm on a side, above the top wiring layer of a chip, covering the entire chip with a micrometer-thick protective layer called a scratch coating. [When] two chips face to face so that the metal plates lined up, allowing the plates to communicate with their counterparts capacitively through two thicknesses of the scratch coating. To use this approach in a system with many chips an upper array of chips, spaced slightly less than a chip-width apart, would overlay a bottom array. The two arrays would be offset so that each corner of a chip in the upper array overlaps a corner of four chips in the lower array .. "That allows you to build a two-dimensional system of arbitrary size," Drost explains."

Advantages: higher data rates, lower power, and replacement of faulty chips without soldering. 

"No plans are yet in place to commercialize the technology. Sun is developing the technique under a contract with the U.S. DARPA.  .. More than one company is seeking ways to speed up interchip communications. In August 2002 Infineon Technologies AG announced a new method of connecting stacked ICs in 3-D packages .. The Infineon approach uses small copper pads on the tops of the chips and puts them face to face in the package .. with a thin layer of solder, making a direct electrical connection ..The first wafers to use this technology are being processed now with the first products expected in 2004."

  11:00:06 PM  permalink  

New wireless mouse doesn't need a pad: "The sensing element within the mouse is a vibrating metal beam that resembles a tiny tuning fork. Gyration says that when the device is rotated around either of the two axes, the vibrating beam reacts to the change in angular momentum. The severity of any reaction is measured and reported as a voltage change relative to a reference voltage. These fluctuations in voltage are, in turn, digitized and delivered as data that a computer can use to track the device's motion.

A rechargeable nickel-metal hydride battery can run the mouse for about 40 hours between charges. A charging cradle with a 120-V ac adapter and software for making it easier to control various popular PC programs are included. Ultra GT Keyboard Suite. Price: US $99.95 with keyboard; $79.95 for just the mouse and RF receiver http://www.gyration.com"

  10:50:26 PM  permalink  

Wireless Networks Gain Spectrum: Controversy over its usefulness over long distance: "The Federal Communications Commission set aside a new slice of airwaves yesterday for wireless Internet users, a move the agency said was designed to encourage the spread of high-speed data access in rural and other underserved areas. ..

Some public interest groups criticized the FCC's decision yesterday, saying the particular slice of airwaves targeted by the agency is not well suited for delivering a robust, high-speed data stream to a wide area. They argued that the 255 new frequencies can't carry a data stream capable of penetrating walls or even passing through leafy trees. .. But FCC officials said several start-up companies have already demonstrated that the new frequencies can deliver data over relatively long distances. "I have no idea where they get their information, but they [the signals] can go five miles," said Edmond Thomas, FCC chief of engineering and technology."

  10:45:08 PM  permalink  

US moves - quietly - toward a flat tax: Bush cuts and state tax increases almost eliminate the last bit of progressivity.  And a useful stat: "Between 1979 and 2000, the richest 1 percent enjoyed a 201 percent improvement in their average after-tax income. That compares with 15 percent for those in the middle 20 percent of the income spectrum and 9 percent for those in the bottom 20 percent."  10:30:01 PM  permalink  

Information Patterns - Toucan Navigate: "Toucan Navigate delivers maps and core GIS functionality to members of Groove shared spaces including: 1) Co-browsing or the ability to have entire teams seeing the same map concurrently regardless of their physical location. Zoom changes, panning or layer visibility are propagated to all space members. 2) Co-editing of map features and attributes, or the ability each member has to add, edit and delete map objects in a decentralized manner."  3:56:01 PM  permalink  

Informational Design - Dr. Sam Savage: Stanford author of a book and an Excel plug in for modelling.  Nice philosophy:

  • The Industrial Revolution .. involved harnessing the power of physics. To grasp the power of physics with our hands often requires an industrial designer to develop an appropriate handle. Some important handles include the steering wheel, the light switch and the typewriter keyboard.
  • [In the] Information Revolution, the power we are harnessing this time is not physical, but abstract and mathematical. The field of Informational Design is evolving to help us to grasp this power not with our hands but with our minds. Thus the goal of the informational designer is to develop a mindle. Some important recent mindles are:
    • Spreadsheet models, which allow us to grasp the results of different investment strategies 
    • Radar screens, which allow air traffic controllers to grasp the locations of aircraft 
    • Medical Imaging, which allows doctors to grasp what's going on inside our bodies 
  10:28:01 AM  permalink  


daily link  Monday, December 01, 2003


Bloglines:  A service for browser-based RSS aggregators.  6:32:55 PM  permalink  

Scientists Speed Up Tree Growth in N.C.: "Scientists say they have found a way to boost tree growth but so far there they haven't found a practical use for the fast-growing plants.  A tree species at N.C. State's Upper Piedmont Research Station in Reidsville grew up to 20 feet in a single year, about double its usual rate. A typical tree in the area grows about 18 inches in a good year. The experiment uses paulownias, a naturally rapid-growing tree from China whose thin stalks are covered in purple blossoms during the spring.

Researchers bred seven varieties of the trees, the quickest of which can grow about 18 to 20 feet in a year, said Ben Bergmann, who was in charge of the project. Bergmann now is the head of the Tropical Research Studies Department at Duke University. The unusual growth was discovered during experiments to lessen animal waste in groundwater and soil, he said. Because of the trees' rapid growth, their roots absorb nutrients and prevent ground and surface water contamination.  The trees produce a light weight wood that can be used for furniture and musical instruments, Bergmann said."  I wonder how fast they absorb CO2.

  6:29:59 PM  permalink  

Summary of VOIP limitations: 

  • no 911
  • no guarantees of service
  • no constraints on junk call: solicitations and junk fax: Don't expect to have a "do not call" or "can spam" list enforced.
  • no assurance that identification and its release are in accordance with end-user's expectations
    • You can't assume that the 'caller ID' data presented to you is accurate
    • At this point, there's no mandated assurance that you can initiate VoIP calls that will suppress disclosure of your identity, IP number, etc.  -- that is, no 'private call' assurance
  • The legal and regulatory levels of privacy afforded to conventional telephony may not apply: If you want privacy, you'll need to put in place your own solutions (as will those with whom you communicate) and hope that your measures are "good enough."
  6:21:45 PM  permalink  

Ready to make a great leap forward: Nice review of Boston-area innovators in energy, sensors, RFID, 3d displays, RNAi, and implanted medical devices.  6:16:24 PM  permalink  

What Makes Some Startups Succeed? Interesting results from survey of 450 storage startups:

  • Companies raising the most capital don't have the strongest chance to succeed. There was no direct correlation. In fact, the amount of capital invested in storage startups that reached successful exits was in a tight range of $33 to $40 million — which some would say is a surprisingly small amount of capital in the world of high-flying IT startups. In fact, the research report states, "there is a negative trend in the number of (successful) exits as funding exceeds the average range." Over-funding actually allows companies to follow a flawed strategy for too long, the report points out.
  • A fully staffed executive team is not necessarily a requirement for success. The study found that, based on historical precedent, building the team sequentially can be more capital efficient, with greater emphasis placed on development of the technology for the first 12 to 18 months. The ideal founding team pedigree, says Crescendo, is a successful product development track record.
  • Most successful storage startups fail to meet all the criteria for being a truly "disruptive innovation." Although the report admits this is largely a qualitative assessment, new waves of technology disruption are not obvious at the outset. Neither did the majority of successful firms "cross the chasm" — that is, move from the low-end, unwanted customer to disrupt the core business of a veteran company before they experienced a successful exit.
  • In 93 percent of the cases, the strategy that a company emerges with (at exit) is completely different from the strategy it set out to implement.
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Seized Intelligence Files Spur U.S. Investigations: "The CIA has seized an extensive cache of files from the former Iraqi Intelligence Service that is spurring U.S. investigations of weapons procurement networks and agents of influence who took money from the government of Saddam Hussein, according to U.S. officials familiar with the records.  The Iraqi files are "almost as much as the Stasi files," said a senior U.S. official, referring to the vast archives of the former East German intelligence service seized after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

The records would stretch 91/2 miles if laid end to end, the officials said. They contain not only the names of nearly every Iraqi intelligence officer, but also the names of their paid foreign agents, written agent reports, evaluations of agent credentials, and documentary evidence of payments made to buy influence in the Arab world and elsewhere, the officials said.  The officials declined to name individuals who they believe received funds or to name the home countries of the alleged recipients. One official said the recipients held high-ranking positions and worked both in Arab countries and in other regions. A second official said the payments were the subjects of "active investigations" by U.S. government agencies.

The recipients of the Iraqi funds were described by U.S. officials not as formal intelligence agents, but as prominent personalities and political figures who accepted money from Iraq as they defended Hussein publicly or pressed his causes.  "

  5:09:12 PM  permalink  

On North Korean Freighter, a Hidden Missile Factory: An Indian port siezure in 1999: "When the ship's doors were finally reopened at gunpoint, the reason for the extreme secrecy became clear. Hidden inside wooden crates marked "water refinement equipment" was an assembly line for ballistic missiles: tips of nose cones, sheet metal for rocket frames, machine tools, guidance systems and, in smaller crates, ream upon ream of engineers' drawings labeled "Scud B" and "Scud C." The intended recipient of the cargo, according to U.S. intelligence officials, was Libya. .. The latest beneficiary appears to be Libya, but other nations are known to have received similar help, including Iran, Pakistan and Syria. North Korea has also sold missiles and parts to Yemen..

In the end, a need for cash scuttled the [ship's] mission. The black-hulled, 25-year-old freighter would probably have avoided Indian customs officials had the captain not gone out of his way to earn extra money, according to documents and interviews with officials.  Just 10 days after departing North Korea's Nampo harbor on April 10, 1999, the ship made detours to two Thai ports to pick up 14,000 tons of sugar for resale along the way, records show. A deal to sell the sugar to some Algerians fell through, so the ship switched course again, to sell it to an Indian company. That meant a stop at the busy port of Kandla, in Gujarat province in northwestern India.  ..

While the ship was somewhere en route, Indian customs officials were tipped off to its possible contraband. The Kuwolsan was rumored to be carrying arms or ammunition, perhaps intended for India's neighbor and rival, Pakistan. When the North Korean freighter steamed into Kandla on June 25, port officials were waiting for it. "

  4:56:36 PM  permalink  

Smugglers Enticed by Dirty Bomb Components: Stories on black-market trafficing in commercial and ex-Soviet radiation sources, including Georgian mafia, Nigeria-to-Germany smuggling, and an Ecuador blackmail operation that still holds canisters.  A Sept 2003 report from Los Alamos National Laboratory states "With the current frequency of terrorist bombings, the publicity regarding the RDD [Radiological Dispersal Device] threat, and the widespread availability of radioactive source materials, an RDD attack somewhere in the world is overdue."  12:48:52 PM  permalink  

Are the poor getting poorer?: "Income inequality does often grow in developing nations. However, that's usually not because "the poor are getting poorer," but because either a) the poor are staying put while the rich get richer, or b) the poor are getting less poor, but they're not doing so as fast as the rich are getting richer. According to a report published in 2000 by the UN, the World Bank, the OECD, et al., the number of people on the planet who live on less than a dollar a day dropped by 100 million between 1990 and 1998. The number remained astoundingly high—1.2 billion—but bear in mind that the drop came even as the population of poor nations grew by hundreds of millions.

Of course, growing income inequality within a nation—whether or not it is caused by the poor getting poorer—may cause social strains and be regrettable for various other reasons. Enlightened national governments may choose to reduce it by income redistribution or other means. Still, it is not necessarily a bad thing when income inequality is the price paid for a rising standard of living. 

Moreover, to suggest—as many have—that globalization is particularly responsible for the growth in income inequality may be the opposite of the truth. Two years ago two World Bank economists, David Dollar and Aart Kraay, released a study that looked not just at the effects of economic growth, but specifically at the effects of globalization. Tracking nations with the most open, most globalized, economies over the last several decades, they found that, as national income grew, the fraction of the economic pie going to the bottom fifth of the income scale didn't shrink. The rising tide indeed seemed to lift all boats."

  10:19:11 AM  permalink  

A Real War on Terrorism By Robert Wright: Excellent 9-part series from late 2002 on an integrated long-term approach to terrorism.  "If you look back over history, you will see enduringly disastrous phases—decades if not centuries of lethal contagious disease, of ruinous war, of societal collapse, of imperial decline. Sometimes these things "just happen," but sometimes they happen because of momentous technological and social changes whose import humankind fails to reckon with. The premise of this series is that right now we're undergoing such change, and so far we're failing to reckon with it."  The section on A regulating biotech is notable.  10:15:59 AM  permalink  

Center for Nonproliferation Studies: Good resource from the Monterey Institute of International Studies. For example, this Historical Roots of Current Terrorist Tactics and Methods paper.  9:58:36 AM  permalink  

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