Ken Novak's Weblog
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Ken Novak's Weblog


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%).

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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. "

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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."
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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. "

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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.""

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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.

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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  

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