Ken Novak's Weblog
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Ken Novak's Weblog


daily link  Saturday, September 27, 2003


Quovix : Interesting custom software development company of 10 software managers with a stable of over 400 freelancers around the world.  "We contract on a project-by-project basis to meet your software development needs. Because of our unique approach of recruiting and employing software developers around the world, we can offer you the benefits of offshore development (cost savings and access to technical talent) without the biggest risks (communication and cultural barriers). We guarantee delivery. A midwest team with offshore savings."   They offer a free download of a collaboration package, an area in which they have a specialized code base.

A short note from 2001 says more on how they work: "How do you harness a workforce of 455 coders, most of whom you've never met? "Simple," says Marty Morrow, CEO of the two-year-old startup. "I focus on the three phases of virtual-product development: water, slush, and ice." The water stage occurs when Quovix lands an assignment. Morrow's team posts the project to Quovix's Web site, where developers click in with feedback. "Hundreds of people provide input and ideas," says Morrow.  If Quovix wins the contract, it enters the slush stage. "We define the project down to a gnat's eyelash and put it out for more feedback. Then we put a price tag on the project, and we run a reverse auction. The person with the most experience and lowest bid wins." Once the project is awarded, it enters the ice stage. This is when the work gets done. "We have tighter control over the developers in our community than most companies have over staff developers who are sitting 20 feet away," says Morrow. "We run daily test patterns on their work, and we know within a day if we've got a problem."

  10:25:46 AM  permalink  

RITE - Research Institute of Innovative Technology for the Earth :  A Japanese research institute on many environmental remediation topics.   There are many references on the web, including a GHG research directory for Japan.   In particular, Tadashi Matsunaga from the Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology in Japan is finding marine microorganisms that can many useful substances, including hydrogen.  10:01:04 AM  permalink  


daily link  Friday, September 26, 2003


Renewable Energy News | $300 Million Federal Solar Energy Deployment: "Congressional Conferees debating current energy legislation released draft legislative language that would authorize a new program to install 20,000 solar energy systems in Federal Buildings by the year 2010. .. In the draft language, released this week, Congressional Conferees included authorization for US$300 million over five years to establish a solar photovoltaic (PV) energy program for the procurement and installation of solar electric systems in new and existing public buildings. "  (This is authorization, not yet appropriation, so there would be more hurdles to cross even if passes.)  5:33:17 PM  permalink  

WorldWater Inaugurates Solar Municipal Water System in Cebu, Philippines: "WorldWater  the Municipality of Ronda, Cebu, Philippines, will inaugurate the world's first solar powered, prepaid municipal water distribution system on September 27 in Ronda. Former Philippines President Fidel V. Ramos will be the keynote speaker. Ronda is located on the southwest coast of Cebu, an island in the middle group of the Philippine archipelago.

For the first time, a municipal water distribution system utilizes smart card technology as a financing solution for community water production and to remove problems associated with the payment collection process. The Ronda system uses WorldWater's proprietary AquaCard(TM) (Smart Card) debit card system, which operates directly with WorldWater's AquaMeter(TM) solar pumping stations throughout the community. The project was made possible by a commercial loan from the Philippine National Bank (PNB), and required no special subsidies or grants. "

  5:23:10 PM  permalink  

No electricity? Use a wind-up phone charger: "Japan's Fuso Rikaseihin Co. Ltd, which makes the charger.  Priced at $42, the hand-held generator is quite noisy and not cheap, although it comes with a built-in flashlight. It can be used with phones from Nokia, Motorola, Sony Ericsson and NTT Docomo. "  5 minutes of winding gives 20 mins of talk time.  Motorola came out with its own winder earlier this year.  5:18:45 PM  permalink  


daily link  Thursday, September 25, 2003


Our True Enemies by Ralph Peters: "From North Africa through Arabia's sands to Kashmir, those with whom we do business, upon whom we rely for advice and assurances of stability, with whom we have dinner and play golf - these are the very creatures who have stolen everything they could steal from their own people, who have ravaged educational systems, looted treasuries, corrupted institutions, tortured and murdered populist opponents and turned once-promising states into financial and moral basket cases.

Until the recent war against Saddam's regime, we never stood up for freedom in the Arab world. We have consistently tolerated or supported those who said the right things to us, who signed the oil contracts, who promised to keep things quiet - and who made a mockery of every value our nation professes. Our reward? Terror. But the truth is that we should be astonished that there is so little anti-American terrorism, given how long, how dishonestly and how virulently our supposed friends preached their theology of blame to local audiences..

Why isn't there a serious bipartisan outcry to expose Saudi misdeeds? Why do we get nothing but pro forma, made-for-the-microphone complaints from both sides of the aisle? Because both political parties are horrified at the thought of the Saudis revealing what they know about us, about the sweetheart deals, the retainers-for-nothing, the inflated contracts and the appalling shabbiness of politicians, businessmen and lobbyists willing to look away from human suffering, injustice and the deepest roots of terror in exchange for a game of tennis with Prince Bandar.

We have unleashed a great wave of change in the Middle East. But we will never make decisive progress against terror until we address the underlying causes - and stop supporting the smiling thieves who rob their own people then ask us out to lunch."

  4:21:48 PM  permalink  

Cover Story: â01CThe Shah Always Fallsâ01D - February/March 2003: "A soldier-historian looks at how the world has changed in the past decade and finds that America is both hostage to history and likely to be saved by it An Interview With Ralph Peters by Fredric Smoler."  Great reading.  Many good ideas, too many to blog right now...  4:15:00 PM  permalink  

Press slants Iraq news: Members=The Hill.com=: "Journalists are giving a slanted and unduly negative account of events in Iraq, a bipartisan congressional group that has just returned from a three-day House Armed Services Committee visit to assess stabilization efforts and the condition of U.S. troops said. .. Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) said: “We were all like-minded in our conversations, not robotic at all, but we saw the real progress that is being made, that we are not at all mired.”

Wilson, once a print reporter, strongly criticized the balance of his former profession’s story selection. “Sure, show the bloody side, but get away from this police-blotter mindset. There’s much more going on, ” he said. “Just on Friday, I heard a CBS radio report on the three deaths and then they had this analysis that just bordered on the hysterical,” Wilson said.  Adding, “CBS got it exactly wrong, the media portrayed it as an act of sophistication and a regrouping of Saddam’s forces, when in fact, it’s an indication of disorganization and desperation.”

Rep. Jim Marshall (D-Ga.) explained that the longer he was in Iraq, the more skeptical he became of his previous assumptions.   Some of the media reports led him to believe that “it was Vietnam revisited,” he said. But he said there was “a disconnect between the reporting and the reality."  Other Democrats were quoted with similar assessments.

  4:02:48 PM  permalink  

Nanoscale iron as environmental cleanser: "An ultrafine, "nanoscale" powder made from iron, one of the most abundant metals on Earth, is turning out to be a remarkably effective tool for cleaning up contaminated soil and groundwater--a trillion-dollar problem that encompasses more than 1000 still-untreated Superfund sites in the United States, some 150,000 underground storage tank releases, and a staggering number of landfills, abandoned mines, and industrial sites.

Iron's cleansing power stems from the simple fact that it rusts, or oxidizes, explains [Lehigh University environmental engineer Wei-xian]Zhang. Ordinarily, of course, the only result is the familiar patina of brick-red iron oxide. But when metallic iron oxidizes in the presence of contaminants such as trichloroethene, carbon tetrachloride, dioxins, or PCBs, he says, these organic molecules get caught up in the reactions and broken down into simple carbon compounds that are far less toxic.   Likewise with dangerous heavy metals..

[N]anoscale iron particles are some 10 to 1000 times more reactive than conventional iron powders, because their smaller size collectively gives them a much larger surface area, and they can be suspended in a slurry and pumped straight into the heart of a contaminated site like an industrial-scale hypodermic injection. Once there, the particles will flow along with the groundwater to work their decontamination magic in place--a vastly cheaper proposition than digging out the soil..

Laboratory and field tests have confirmed that treatment with nanoscale iron particles can drastically lower contaminant levels around the injection well within a day or two, and will all but eliminate them within a few weeks--reducing them so far that the formerly polluted site will now meet federal groundwater quality standards. The tests also show that the nanoscale iron will remain active in the soil for 6 to 8 weeks, says Zhang, or until what's left of it dissolves in the groundwater. And after that, of course, it will be essentially undetectable against the much higher background of naturally occurring iron.

Finally, says Zhang, the cost of the nanoscale iron treatments is not nearly as big a barrier as it was in 1995, when he and his colleagues first developed a chemical route for making the particles. Then the nanoscale iron cost about $500 a kilogram; now, it's more like $40 to $50 per kilogram. (Decontaminating an area of about 100 square meters using a single injection well requires 11.2 kilograms.)   Zhang is currently forming a company to mass-produce the nanoscale iron particles. " Contact: (610)-758-5318, wez3@lehigh.edu.

  11:28:47 AM  permalink  

Today I wrote my thoughts on trends in photovoltaic cell prices.  My gut estimate is for grid-competitive PV products selling into some markets in 2007, and being mass marketable in 2011.

  11:04:57 AM  permalink  

Progress at Nanosys with nanorods: "To keep the rods properly aligned inside a solar cell so that they absorb solar energy consistently, he and his research team make them in the shape of branching nanocrystals that they call tetrapods. "Imagine a pyramid with all four sides exposed,â01D Alivisatos says. "We can grow rods out of each face of that pyramid. The result looks like a jack, from the children's game. It' a semiconductor that will always stand up on a surface, and should perform more efficiently."  9:24:18 AM  permalink  


daily link  Wednesday, September 24, 2003


Grants support renewable energy: "USDA is giving just over $2 million in grant money to fund rural renewable energy projects and energy efficiency improvements across the Sunbelt... Nationwide, a total of $21.2 million in grants was approved for 113 projects in 24 states .. Grant funds can be used to pay up to 25 percent of the cost for eligible projects, which include those that either derive energy from a wind, solar, biomass, or geothermal source, or hydrogen derived from biomass or water using wind, solar or geothermal energy sources."

  4:34:30 PM  permalink  

Sunlight Energy Company: "an emerging new type of solar collector - The solar dish. The dish tracks the sun with curved glass mirrors and concentrates intense sunlight onto the flux capacitor at the focus to make hot water, steam, electricity, and hydrogen fuel... The solar dish is unique in that it is the most cost efficient solar collector in the world. It is designed to be made with off-the-shelf materials, unskilled indigenous labor, and common hand tools. The 360 pound solar dish has a producer cost of about $1,000, delivers the energy equivalent of 10 barrels of oil per year, energy that costs less than a penny per kilowatt hour. "  Design info also available.  Apparently relies on a $50 "Black copper coil receiver" for the conversion of heat to electricity; wonder how that works...  4:32:03 PM  permalink  

An overview of Solar Photovoltaic in Bangladesh:  Reviews market size and channel issues, in light of WB/GEF programs.  Interesting note on how NGOs can participate in GEF subsidies and have access to capital, putting them at a decisive advantage over the private sector today.  3:26:20 PM  permalink  


daily link  Tuesday, September 23, 2003


Galapagos Marine Solar Energy: "A recent oil spill dumped thousands of gallons of fuel into the fragile waters [off the Galapagos] .. One recent example of a trend toward renewable energy on the islands is a new 18-person Catamaran designed for eco-tourism and that was retrofitted with 20 Shell Solar photovoltaic (PV) modules, two Xantrex SW 4048J inverter/chargers for on-board power. The father and son team of Guillermo and Alejandro Botta led a group of craftsmen from Guayaquil, Ecuador, in the construction of the solar-powered catamaran, a first for Ecuador's naval industry. The vessel is used to ferry tourists through the Galapagos Islands and includes a dive platform for scuba diving.

Because the Archipell sails in a highly-sensitive ecosystem, the team decided to build it using a fiberglass hull and solar powered electric motors. The increased weight of a steel hull would have put additional strain on the solar-powered motors as well.  Twenty solar panels placed across the roof charge a bank of batteries and are connected to the Xantrex inverters which in turn supply electricity to operate the vessel. The company said construction of the solar-powered ship has been described as a milestone for Ecuador's shipbuilding industry."  12:27:29 PM  permalink  

Luxeon: Line of high-output LEDs from San Jose-based Lumileds.  "Luxeon™ Star Power Light Sources are the world's brightest LEDs offering up to 120 lumens per single source and available in a variety of configurations. Power and superb lumen maintenance, far exceeding other standard and high-flux LEDs..

  • Very long operating life (up to100k hours)
  • Available in White, Green, Blue, Royal Blue, Cyan, Red, Red-Orange and Amber
  • More Energy Efficient than Incandescent and most Halogen lamps
  • Low voltage DC operated
  • Cool beam, safe to the touch
  • Instant light (less than 100 ns turn-on time)
  • Fully dimmable
  9:10:21 AM  permalink  

Solar Electric systems: Sells packages for solar power and many LED lights, including a $10 replacement bulb for incandescent flashlights  9:05:11 AM  permalink  


daily link  Monday, September 22, 2003


Whale Communications e-Gap Webmail for MS Exchange: "The e-Gap® Webmail Appliance provides a secure front end to Microsoft® Exchange (5.5, 2000 and 2003) enabling Outlook® Web Access from any browser anywhere in the world. As an application specific "SSL VPN," it is a cost-effective, rapidly deployable alternative to traditional VPNs. e-Gap Webmail protects against IIS vulnerabilities like Code Red and even unknown future exploits. There's no need to open dangerous holes in your firewall. The e-Gap Webmail Appliance also overlays strong authentication like RSA SecurID® Authentication and provides additional security features such as a patent-pending "secure log-off." Installation is quick and non-intrusive, requiring no intervention with production Exchange servers or firewalls. In addition to OWA access, support is available for secure remote access to the native Microsoft Outlook Client.  10:01:01 PM  permalink  

SSL for remote access: A "benefit of installing the SSL-based appliance is that Virtua has given its 3,000 employees who access e-mail remotely the ability to use the full Microsoft Outlook rather than the more limited Outlook Web client. .. By virtue of Netilla's gear, Virtua has avoided using IP Security (IPSec) VPNs and the inherent hassles of distributing client software to remote machines."  9:56:56 PM  permalink  

Caught in the Iraqi Dramatics: "The people at [international diplomatic] conferences tended to be paranoiaphiliacs. They believed there was a secret conspiracy running the world, but they were in favor of it because they thought they were it. .. Far from mastering events, the poor souls who attended summits found history moving in unfathomable directions. .. I realized I didn't really believe in foreign policy. Most problems are domestic policy to the people who matter most. ..

It's time to acknowledge that the reconstruction of Iraq is too important to be left to the foreign policy types, who are trained to think too abstractly to grapple with the problems that matter.  The good things that are happening in Iraq are taking place far below the level of grand strategy. On Sunday, 18 bankers and civil servants from 11 central and Eastern European countries came to Iraq to describe the lessons they had learned in moving from tyranny to democracy. Every day, U.N. humanitarian workers, far removed from the marble halls of the Security Council, risk their lives to feed and clothe Iraqis. Every day, U.S. military officers spend millions of dollars building schools and tackling neighborhood issues. That's the work that gives Iraqis hope. Seventy percent of Iraqis expect their lives to improve over the next five years, and two-thirds want coalition forces to stay for at least a year, according to a recent Zogby poll.

Over the long term, we need to create an apolitical reservist force, made up of of businesspeople, administrators and police officers who have concrete experience in moving societies from dictatorship to democracy. In the meantime, we need to focus on serving the Iraqis first, second and last. We don't need to get caught up in a distracting round of lofty debates among the world's Walter Mitty Metternichs, who treat the Iraqi people as pawns in their great game-power struggles."

  7:45:04 PM  permalink  

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