Ken Novak's Weblog
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Ken Novak's Weblog


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  

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