|Ken Novak's Weblog
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Ken Novak's Weblog
Saturday, September 20, 2003
: "What Is Mason? Mason is a powerful Perl-based web site development and delivery engine. With Mason you can embed Perl code in your HTML and construct pages from shared, reusable components. Mason solves the common problems of site development: caching, debugging, templating, maintaining development and production sites, and more. Mason is 100% free and open source. " There's an OReilly book
, which includes a web-accessible chapter on Bricolage, a content management system
based in Mason. 11:49:02 PM
Friday, September 19, 2003
Small Home System
: "Sharp Corporation announces the introduction of a pair of Small Home System (SHS) photovoltaic (PV) power generating systems that make it simple and easy to get AC and DC power from sunlight. Aimed at regions of Asia, the Middle East and Africa where grid-supplied electricity is unavailable, these small-scale systems consist of a 'photovoltaic module,' a 'charger/inverter unit,' a 'battery' and 'connecting cables' in a single sales package, and will be available in early November of 2003." Useful details provided. 3:24:57 PM
KYOCERA and SELF in Nigeria: "Kyocera Solar recently supplied solar products and technical support for a unique rural electrification project designed to pump water and power homes, schools, clinics, mosques and local micro-enterprises in Nigeria. Three agriculture-based villages with a population of about 8,000 are now enjoying solar electricity. The project is jointly sponsored by the U.S. Agency for International Development, the U.S. Department of Energy and the Government of Jigawa State in Nigeria. Management and on-site assistance are supplied by the Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF), a non-profit organization with extensive experience in developing village electrification. SELF projects are typically in villages far from an electric grid and with little prospect of grid connection in the foreseeable future. .. Kyocera Solar Inc. will supply 13 different system configurations based on affordability and application requirements. " 2:17:36 PM
Thursday, September 18, 2003
US vs British empires:
A speech making "the case that compared with the great British empire of a century ago the United States has much in common. It is in many ways a natural descendant of that empire. It resembles [and exceeds] it in at least three distinct ways.. [But it has] three distinct weaknesses by comparison with the British Empire. I am going to suggest it has three imperial deficits, which may explain why despite its vastly greater wealth, than Britain of a century ago, despite indeed its vastly greater military power, the United States finds it remarkably difficult to impose its will on relatively poor, and indeed quite technologically backwards societies. This, I am going to suggest to you, is the answer to the great puzzle of why such a vastly wealthy country has indeed been a relatively unsuccessful empire to date. " Long, but quite informative. 11:11:45 PM
6 Degrees Confirmed:
"More than 60,000 people from 166 different countries took part in the experiment. Participants were assigned one of 18 target people. They were asked to contact that person by sending email to people they already knew and considered potentially "closer" to the target. The targets were chosen at random and included a professor from America, an Australian policeman and a veterinarian from Norway.
The researchers found that it in most cases it took between five and seven emails to contact the target. " 3:28:08 PM
ADB project on Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency for Sustainable Development in the Pacific
was approved on 28 April 2003. The project is aimed at disseminating information on renewable energy sources and improving energy efficiency specially on the demand side, developing 5-6 demonstration programs (including maintenance plans), and designing financing schemes and implementation mechanisms in the low-income Pacific Island countries and East Timor to assist promotion of renewable energy resources in a reliable and sustained manner as well as increase the efficiency of energy use. 3:16:49 PM
Bangladesh renewables project funded by ADB
: "Recently, the Asian Development Bank launched the "Promotion of Renewable Energy, Energy Efficiency and Greenhouse Gas Abatement (PREGA)" Project. A National Implementation Committee (NIC) has been formed under the Power Ministry to carry out the tasks of PREGA, the sources said." PREGA
planned to be active in 15 countries in Asia, between 2001 and 2004. 3:14:12 PM
Renewable Energy, Energy Efficiency, and Climate Change - REACH - ADB.org
: "ADB's Technical Assistance program on climate change includes capacity building activities on generic climate change issues and Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) with emphasis on renewable energy and energy efficiency, carbon sequestration, and adaptation." A number of specific funds and projects are included. 3:14:06 PM
: "The Rainbow project is an open source initiative to build a comprehensive content management system using Microsoft's ASP.NET and C# technology. A VB version is also available. Rainbow, available today in 14 languages, allows content authoring to be safely delegated to role-based team members who need little or no knowlege of HTML. Rainbow optionally supports a two-step approval-publish process. 45 plug-in modules are now included in the standard release, including support for an e-store, XML news feeds, Flash, Maps, Newsletter, Surveys, Forums, Document Management, Custom Lists, and more." It is offered by hosting organizations in Italy, Australia, and elsewhere. 2:21:46 PM
Wednesday, September 17, 2003
Beacon Power demonstrates new inverter and software: "The Smart Power M5 is a high performance 5-kilowatt inverter for grid-connected solar power applications. It incorporates a range of components in one compact, integrated system, including inverter, charge controller with maximum power point tracking, switchgear, and battery back-up capability. Even in the event of a grid outage, the M5 will continue to operate as uninterruptible power system (UPS), providing photovoltaic (or battery) power to critical loads. Traditional grid-tied inverters do not function when primary power fails. .. Beacon will also demonstrate its new Smart Power Monitor PC-based software that monitors, analyzes and reports the performance of an M5-based solar power system. Users can observe and record key system performance parameters, including solar power output (real-time and accumulated), power exported to the grid (for net metering applications), and battery charging and discharging functions. " 12:58:31 PM
Twelve Major US Corporations and WRI Announce Corporate Green Power Purchases: "The World Resources Institute (WRI) and the 12 members of its Green Power Market Development Group today announced 97 megawatts (MW) of groundbreaking green power deals. The purchases include the largest corporate fuel cell and renewable energy certificate deals in the United States. The Green Power Market Development Group (The Green Power Group) is a unique commercial and industrial partnership dedicated to building corporate markets for green power. Its members are Alcoa Inc, Cargill Dow LLC, Delphi Corporation, The Dow Chemical Company, DuPont, General Motors, IBM, Interface, Johnson & Johnson, Kinko's, Pitney Bowes, and Staples" 12:55:06 PM
Women top the world: "Women have overtaken men at every level of education in developed countries around the world. And girls are now more confident of getting better-paid, professional jobs than their flagging male counterparts. International education figures, published by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, show a consistent picture of women achieving better results than men.
"The success of girls is a complete reversal of what would have been expected a generation ago, said Andreas Schleicher, head of analysis at the OECD's education directorate. "In most OECD countries young women are now more likely than young men to obtain first degrees from university-level institutions," it said. "Only in three countries -- Japan, Switzerland and Turkey -- is the proportion of young men obtaining first degrees significantly higher than that of young women."
According to the OECD, in 1990 men still had higher graduation rates than women in half the countries surveyed. Today females make up on average more than two-thirds of graduates in the humanities, arts, education and health. But they make up less than a third in mathematics and computer science and less than a quarter in engineering. At the age of 15, girls were better readers than boys in every one of the 43 countries that took part in a 2000 study. In about half the countries boys were ahead on mathematical literacy, but the differences here were smaller. ..
Mr Schleicher said there were signs that boys were more susceptible to being put off education by disruptions in their home environment. They seemed less able to overcome obstacles, whether peer group pressure or a lack of family support." 9:52:21 AM
Tuesday, September 16, 2003
Yahoo! News in RSS
: "Yahoo! News is now offering the following feeds in the RSS format. The feeds are free of charge to use for individuals and non-profit organizations for non-commercial use. " 14 RSS feeds so far, like World, Business, Sports, and Most Emailed, Most Viewed, Highest Rated. 12:56:56 PM
Bikinis in Saudi Arabia: info-anarchy as cultural imperialism: "Information anarchy is just the latest variant of West Coast libertarianism, defending 'free speech' at all costs, refusing controls over the net because it goes against the US model of freedom, and unable to allow that government can be a force for good. I didn't like that model when it came out of Wired magazine in the early 1990s, or the Open Source zealots later in the decade. I won't accept it from the p2p advocates now.
Siva says that "this issue is not about bikinis in Saudi Arabia", but of course it is. It is about the ability of a government to assert appropriate authority over online activity, whether it is in breach of copyright law or against public standards of morality. Pushing for information anarchy is just another way of endorsing US cultural imperialism, with its stress on US values and free trade. When cultural floodgates are opened -- and abandoning any possibility of regulating the net in favour of p2p-induced anarchy would open them -- then US culture comes to dominate. Look at the film industry or the games market. Siva, though he would deny it, is promoting the interests of the US government he claims to distrust, because he has not realised that the values that underpin file sharing and Napster are those of the unrestrained free market.." 12:49:14 PM
Opening up the BBC archive: "Greg Dyke, director general of the BBC, has announced plans to give the public full access to all the corporation's programme archives. Mr Dyke said on Sunday that everyone would in future be able to download BBC radio and TV programmes from the internet. The service, the BBC Creative Archive, would be free and available to everyone, as long as they were not intending to use the material for commercial purposes, Mr Dyke added. " More interpretation from a blogger: "While the commercial companies fret over the dangers of P2P and zero-cost replication, the BBC has realised that this is its greatest opportunity. Not to beat commercial media concerns, but to finally stop mimicking them. It's heartening to see how quickly the BBC spotted this. From the first informal conversations at the lowest levels, to the acceptance by the most cynical realists at the top of the corporation, it took just 18 months for the BBC to get it. Compare that to the tardiness of the supposedly fast-thinking commercial companies. .. There are some big questions. Sorting out the contractual issues with anything but completely internally produced content will be difficult. There are artist's residuals (payments made to actors for repeat showings of their work), external commercial content, and international rights to consider." 11:03:11 AM
Update on MIT Everyware (Sept 2003): "MIT announced to the world in April 2001 that it would be posting the content of some 2,000 classes on the Web.. MIT would make everything, from video lectures and class notes to tests and course outlines, available to any joker with a browser. .. here was the pinnacle of technology and science education ready to give it away. Not the degrees, which now cost about $41,000 a year, but the content. No registration required. .. The idea quickly attracted outside funding. The William and Flora Hewlett and the Andrew W. Mellon foundations ponied up a total of $11 million for the first two-year phase. .. [This year OpenCourseWare has] 500 courses, offerings like Nuclear Engineering Course 22.312: Engineering of Nuclear Reactors, and Political Science 17.251: Congress and the American Political System. The school expects to add the remaining 1,500 courses over the next three years. ..
One of the most popular offerings turned out to be Laboratory in Software Engineering, aka 6.170, a tough requirement for electrical engineering and computer science majors. Lam Vi Quoc, a fourth-year student at Vietnam's Natural Sciences University, relied on 6.170 lectures to supplement a software lab he was taking, and Evan Hoff, a software developer in Nashville, followed the course to improve his coding skills. In Karachi, Pakistan, a group of 100 students and professionals met weekly to study 6.170. In Kansas City, five members of the Greater Kansas City Java Professionals Association gathered monthly to take the course. In Mauritius, a tiny island nation in the Indian Ocean, Priya Durshini Thaunoo used 6.170 to prepare for a master's degree program at the University of Mauritius. Saman Zarandioon, an Iranian refugee living in Vienna, studied it to continue an education that was stalled by the Iranian government. And software developer Rahul Thadani in Birmingham, Alabama, took it to sharpen his skills. ..
In addition to students, the material appeals to countless educators at other universities. Zhivko Nedev, a computer science professor at Wilfred Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario, turns to 6.170 material to help him prepare lectures for his programming course. "It is the best thing I have ever seen in computer science," he says. Ludmila Matiash, at the Kyiv Mohyla Business School in Ukraine, draws on OpenCourseWare to design educational and training programs. Kathy Mann, manager of the biology lab at Truckee Meadows Community College in Reno, Nevada, uses Biology 7.012: Introduction to Biology to teach students how to create lab reports and record information from science experiments. "It's really well done," she says. "Why reinvent the wheel?" The Fulbright Economic Teaching Program at the University of Economics in Ho Chi Minh City makes its own content available online to any interested learners - and indicates on its site that it is taking a cue from OpenCourseWare. ..
MIT is working hard on other ways to extend OpenCourseWare's reach. In January, Universia, a Madrid-based consortium of universities, approached MIT about translating the material into Spanish and Portuguese. MIT signed a deal to authorize and vet the translations, and the first 25 courses will be available this month. The university has received similar requests from the Middle East, Ukraine, and Mongolia, but it won't forge any more official partnerships until it sees how the Universia deal goes.
Ultimately, MIT officials know, OpenCourseWare's success depends on the emergence of online communities to support individual courses. Margulies says MIT is eager to find third parties to create tools that would enable learners or educators to easily organize and manage discussion groups using OpenCourseWare content. "We'd like to see self-managed OpenCourseWare communities," says Margulies. "Our vision is to have this open source software on the site, as well as information that helps people build a learning community, whether it's in Namibia, Thailand, wherever." 10:18:33 AM
Monday, September 15, 2003
Invention for Sustainable Development
: "The Lemelson Foundation Invention for Sustainable Development Program fosters and unleashes human creativity and invention to meet basic human needs and build sustainable livelihoods for the world's poor people. " Advisory board members include Ashok Gadgil. 5:46:29 PM
Economist update on Nanosys nanorod solar cells:
"Japan's leading maker of building materials, Matsushita Electric Works in Osaka. MEW, which is famous for its resin moulding and processing technology, has joined forces with Nanosys, a start-up co-founded by Dr Alivisatos in Palo Alto, California. The partners plan to develop nanorod composite cells for the construction materials industry in Asia. Nanosys and MEW (a subsidiary of Matsushita Electric Industrial, the world's largest consumer electronics maker) hope to release commercial versions of the new solar cells by 2007.
The plan is to incorporate the composite solar cells into decorative roofing tiles or sidings, says Stephen Empedocles, a co-founder and director of business development at Nanosys. .. Dr Alivisatos thinks that if he can get the nanorods to point in a single direction, rather than randomly, he can boost the composite's energy efficiency. If that can be increased to 10%, Nanosys will have the basics for producing solar cells that are easy to work with and cheap to make. In June, the National Science Foundation awarded Nanosys a research grant worth $850,000 to develop the nanocomposite solar cell further. " 4:39:24 PM
More light than heat
: "What is needed is a glass that lets in light but keeps out stifling heat. Such glasses exist but are generally considered a luxury .. One version consists of a thin layer of silver sandwiched between plates of ordinary glass.
Writing in a recent issue of Applied Physics Letters, Stefan Schelm and Geoff Smith of the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia, suggest a handy solution to the problem. The window they have developed consists of a sheet of plastic, rather than silver, sandwiched between plates of glass. The plastic, a standard polyvinyl butyral laminate is doped with nanoparticles of lanthanum hexaboride. This substance was chosen because it absorbs infra-red radiation but very little visible light. Because infra-red wavelengths carry the bulk of the heat, this allows the plastic layer to filter out most of the heat.
The nanoparticles do not even have to be particularly pure. Any contaminants created during production are so small, and fortunately transparent, as not to matter. The doped plastic transmits only 5% of the infra-red light, even when the concentration of nanoparticles is as low as 0.02%. The only side-effect is that the glass has a very slight blue-green tinge. .. Mr Schelm did not just happen upon lanthanum hexaboride, but chose it after modelling how conducting nanoparticles absorb light. By adjusting the size of the nanoparticles, or perhaps choosing a slightly different material, Mr Schelm may eventually get rid of the blue-green tinge." I wonder if this can be combined with concentrators and high-efficiency PVs -- like from spectrolabs, yielding >25% up to 400 suns -- to make PVs pay? 4:33:56 PM
Grid MP Global Service Statistics
: United Devices public grid used for Smallpox, Anthrax, and Cancer research, with 1m computers registered but apparently about 100k active (currently about 250 processor-years of computing per day). United Devices offers programs for organizations
to build grids out of their computer networks and offer them to other customers (as Gateway has done). 4:13:34 PM
Fabricates MEMS on demand from CAD drawings with 3 week turnaround. 3:22:59 PM
Decision tree of different media available for communicating today, and when to use each. 10:23:39 AM
Test bed for the Internet: "The Internet has spawned a smaller clone of itself called PlanetLab, which has been designed as the new virtual test bed for the next generation of Web-based applications. This global virtual laboratory imitates our usage of the World Wide Web to develop new business tools, computer programs and weapons against worms and viruses. The project sponsored by Intel Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Co., as well as many universities, is currently running on more than 160 machines at 65 sites worldwide... Anyone who wants to use PlanetLab for developing code simply has to donate a computer -- known as a node -- to the network, thus increasing its capability. " 10:20:32 AM
Bin Laden's hideout in wilds of Pakistan:
Good map of Waziristan, with this comment: "President Pervez Musharraf, has survived at least three assassination attempts since he threw his support behind the US-led war on terror in September 2001" 8:16:48 AM
In search of technology, Army turns to moths, sponges, biotechs
"Two Bay Area biotech companies have been enlisted in a $50 million effort by the U.S. Army to create new types of sensors, electronics and information technology by unlocking some of nature's mysteries. The Army Research Office awarded a five-year grant to a partnership of three research universities to launch the Institute for Collaborative Biotechnologies. The University of California, Santa Barbara, will lead the partnership with collaboration from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the California Institute of Technology. .. "It's a bit of an unusual take on biotech in that it focuses on material science and information science, not specifically on health care where I think most people think biotechnology impacts their lives," said David Tirrell, Institute for Collaborative Biotechnologies program coordinator for the Caltech campus. "It requires an unusual combination of skills, which is why not a lot of people are doing this." " 12:28:59 AM
There's progress in Baghdad but...
: "The visitor returning to Baghdad after three months' absence cannot fail to be struck by improvements in the Iraqi capital's life. But there is always a "but."" 12:20:09 AM
Sunday, September 14, 2003
Gateway Snags First Grid Customer, May 2003: "Gateway has signed on the American Diabetes Association as the first customer for its Grid computing service.
The ADA will use Gateway's Processing On Demand solution, backed by United Device's Grid MP Alliance platform, to accelerate diabetes research. The platform will run software to help the ADA analyze clinical programs and treatments, develop clinical practice guidelines, study the efficiency of care processes, set priorities and plan diabetes research. .. By using the Gateway solution, the ADA says it has already experienced a dramatic improvement in the time it takes to process a component of diabetes related research - from 48 hours down to one hour .. For more information, visit http://gateway.com/work/services/pod.shtml or www.ud.com/alliance."
Further details at Gateway Grid Used in Diabetes Research :"For example, researchers can plug in data involving patients with high blood pressure and diabetes, and then run various scenarios through the application to determine the benefits or disadvantages of administering disparate levels of medicine, Kahn said. They could find out the impact on patients, inventory, hospital costs and doctors fees, he said. .. On a single system, it would take 100 hours to run each scenario through the application, he said. Using Gateway's grid, that has been cut down to 30 minutes, and Kahn said he expects to get it below five minutes .. " 8:08:08 AM
Gateway Sells Processing by the Gigahertz Hour
: Update on Grid gateway: "you can literally buy Gateway PCs by the clock cycle at the rate of 15¢ for an hour of one gigahertz' worth of computing power. To use the horsepower of one thousand 2.4 GHz PCs, you would pay $360 an hour. .. When a customer submits a job to GPOD, Gateway's engineers first validate the program, and then schedule it for execution. The grid server takes the job, partitions it into many small pieces that can be executed independently, and distributes them to the individual PCs in the grid network. The PCs execute the small jobs and return the results to the grid server. The server then compiles the results into the final solution to be presented to the customer. No special modification to the source code is needed, but you need to port the application to the grid environment by writing a "wrapper" using the United Devices SDK. For customers who want a completely transparent solution, Gateway can provide the application porting service as well. " 8:03:23 AM