Ken Novak's Weblog
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Ken Novak's Weblog

daily link  Monday, February 28, 2005

Jon Stewart's Daily Show on Bloggers 02/16/05.  Hilarious.  5:23:48 PM  permalink  

Q-Cells AG: New European solar cell producer, based in East Germany, rumored to IPO in 2005.  "Q-Cells AG, (Thalheim near Wolfen), the largest producer of solar cells in Europe, is presenting its latest construction project .. The company is expanding its production capacity from hitherto 170 MWp (megawatt peak) to in total 320 MWp."  4:46:48 PM  permalink  

Stationary Fuel Cells growing in California: "FuelCell Energy and Alliance Power have formed a joint venture, Alliance Star Energy, and entered into an energy agreement with Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide. The agreement provides the framework for fuel cell power plant projects for Starwood's hotels ..  Initial focus will be in California, but the arrangement is open to all of Starwood's hotels and resort properties.  The first project is to provide 1 MW of fuel cell power to the Sheraton San Diego Hotel and Marina, the fourth hotel employing FuelCell Energy's Direct FuelCell (DFC) technology. Four 250 kW DFC power plants will supply base load electricity for the 1,044-room hotel, and the heat byproduct will be used for the hotel's Lagoon Pool. .. 

The San Diego Regional Energy Office, administrator for The California Public Utilities Commission's (CPUC) Self-Generation Incentive Program for the San Diego area, issued a reservation letter that will provide incentive funding of up to $2.5 million of eligible project costs. The CPUC Self-Generation Incentive Program was created to encourage customers of electrical corporations to install distributed generation that operates on renewable fuel and/or contributes to system reliability. Existing law defines 'ultra-clean and low-emission distributed generation' as an electric generation technology that produces zero emissions during operation or that produces emissions that are equal to or less than limits established by the California Air Resources Board (CARB). The program currently runs through 2007 and provides up to $67 million per year in incentive funding for clean and renewable generators, including fuel cells. "

  4:43:30 PM  permalink  

iPod Radio and Skype:  "This post provides a "how to" on creating a personal iPod Radio that you can use in your Skype calls or simply leave running for your friends to call. The implications are disruptive, and the "ease of use" likely to further Skype's adoption when solutions are available for effectively using Skype as a broadcast service. It's perfect for low volume delivery of recorded messages off websites. Perhaps another zone for convergence between music, media and voice?"  see also SkypeCasting: How to Record Skype Conversations  

This builds on Skype's low latency, its high quality (if higher-bandwidth) codecs, and its ability to run in several instances on a single desktop.  It's not just VOIP telephony, and beats streaming technology in having fast call setup and no server (being peer-to-peer). IP telephony seemed to me to be economically important but not functionally important, unless it could enable new functions.  Up to now, making your own conference calls, keeping a line open for long periods, or integrating with other collaboration tools were valuable, but relatively minor, new functions.  Skype's approach of adding high quality audio was intriguing ("the medium is the massage").  With recorded apps and closed user groups, we have SOIP, Sound over IP, with many apps, such as:

  • personal or party-sized radio
  • low-volume simulcast of events (I'd happily pay $5 to hear the music from my favorite jazz club when I can't make it; and I'd like to listen in on community or political meetings when I can't be there)
  • recorded announcements (school reports, ski reports)
  • intercom/surveillance:  listen in on microphones anywhere
  • PA systems:  make an announcement from your PC, or PDA
  • personal online dictation or transcription

Especially interesting is the ease of access from a telephone.  Motorola is adding Skype to mobile phone handsets, and third parties can give a public phone number address to an SOIP destination.  So any service you make on a PC can be accessed from phones, as well.  Carriers may now reuse the phone numbers that used to connect to modems and faxes, and can carry calls from conventional phones into the new applications.

As noted by former BT CTO Peter Cochrane, unbundled VOIP like Skype has become as practical for road warriors as modems did in the 90s, and the results may not be pretty for the phone carriers.  New applications may soften the blow a little.

  9:11:01 AM  permalink  

Juan Cole, spot on: "The corporate media failed the United States in 2002-2003. The US government failed the American people in 2002-2003. That empty, and often empty-headed punditry, which Jon Stewart destroyed so skilfully, played a big role in dragooning the American people into a wasteful and destructive elective war that threatens to warp American society"  12:27:33 AM  permalink  

daily link  Sunday, February 27, 2005

Under-reporting: How the DoD undercounts Iraq casualties, by their own admission by a factor of over 2, by other's estimates possibly 3-4.  "If an actual journalist, someone with resources, balls and determination, filed the right FOIA requests, we might begin to get some numbers we can trust."  More technical details at  11:08:36 PM  permalink  

Juan Cole doubts Iraq ballot fraud: "Al-Hayat also today repeats the allegation that the US or the electoral commission somehow cheated the United Iraqi Alliance of an absolute majority in parliament. (Note that this argument completely contradicts the interview they did, which speaks of US helplessness before the results.) The argument that the Iraqi elections were fixed is, however, implausible. It is sometimes alleged that the Shiites should have done better than they did, given the Sunni Arab absence. But when the smoke cleared, the UIA did have a majority in parliament, so the allegation makes no sense..  Precisely because the United Iraqi Alliance has ended up with 51 percent of the seats, which is enough to confirm the new government once a cabinet is selected, and since with the small Shiite parties it has 54 percent, either the US did not intervene in the ballot counting or it was completely incompetent in doing so. Personally, I don't think the US was in a position to intervene. Grand Ayatollah Sistani would not have put up with it, and the Americans knew it."  10:41:00 PM  permalink  

Daschle, Thune and the Blog-Storming of South Dakota: "The blogging efforts on behalf of Thune's Senate campaign didn't cause greater civic participation or bring in piles of small donations. Instead nine bloggers -- two of whom were paid $35,000 by Thune's campaign -- formed an alliance that constantly attacked the election coverage of South Dakota's principal newspaper, the Sioux Falls Argus Leader. More specifically, their postings were not primarily aimed at dissuading the general public from trusting the Argus' coverage. Rather, the work of these bloggers was focused on getting into the heads of the three journalists at the Argus who were primarily responsible for covering the Daschle/Thune race: chief political reporter David Kranz, state editor Patrick Lalley, and executive editor Randell Beck.

Led by law student Jason van Beek and University of South Dakota history professor Jon Lauck, the Thune bloggers tormented and rattled the Argus staff for the duration of the 2004 election, clearly influencing the Argus' coverage. They also appear to have been a highly efficient vehicle for injecting classic no-fingerprints-attached opposition research on Daschle -- most of it tidbits that perhaps might never have made it into the old print media -- directly into the political bloodstream of South Dakota. What they did may turn out to be a "dark side of politics" model for campaign-blogger relations in 2005-06 -- made all the more telling by the fact that the Thune bloggers relied heavily on now-discredited Jeff Gannon/James Guckert of Talon News for many of their stories. "

  9:49:00 PM  permalink  

Scott Ritter's latest: "On Friday evening in Olympia, former UNSCOM weapons inspector Scott Ritter appeared with journalist Dahr Jamail. -- Ritter made two shocking claims: George W. Bush has "signed off" on plans to bomb Iran in June 2005, and the U.S. manipulated the results of the Jan. 30 elections in Iraq."  Will be interesting to see if these play out as accurately as his pre-war statements about WMD in Iraq.  6:01:09 PM  permalink  

Iraq's neighborhood councils are vanishing: "The fate of the councils provides grim evidence of how difficult it is for democracy to take root in Iraq.  Hundreds of neighborhood councils, now a dead letter as the elite politicians who won seats in Iraq's national election squabble over the spoils, were set up across Iraq in 2003 by the US military and the Research Triangle Institute, based near Raleigh, N.C., was given a contract with up to $460 million to build local governance. The idea was to prime the pump of citizen participation and create a new culture that would make democracy work for citizens in a tangible way. But nearly two years later, the money and effort has yielded few visible gains.

Iraq's diverse and decentralized insurgency has turned its focus from US forces toward the easy targets provided by Iraq's front-line politicians, police officers, and new soldiers. Hundreds of low-level councilors have been killed, scaring local councils out of existence in at least a dozen of Iraqi towns. An official at the Research Triangle Institute says that councils still exist and are active in safer regions of Iraq, while others in the areas where insurgents have been most active may exist in name only." 

  3:58:17 PM  permalink  

daily link  Friday, February 25, 2005

The Intimate Planet: Skype brings live conversations with strangers from around the world to John Perry Barlow.  He gets calls from a Vietnamese and a Chinese student practicing English, an Australian joking around; unmediated, no government minders, no commercial message (at least for now).  The free arrival of random voices, like meeting strangers on a train, carries a shock.  Like the first exposures to email and the web, the world comes even closer.  11:02:29 PM  permalink  

Intro to Xen: 4-page white paper.  10:45:48 PM  permalink  

IBM Cloudscape open source database: Late 2004: "IBM Cloudscape™ V10.0 is a pure, open source-based Java relational database management system that can be embedded in Java programs and used for online transaction processing (OLTP). A platform-independent, small-footprint (2MB) database, Cloudscape V10.0 integrates tightly with any Java-based solution." 

Also:  Q&A on IBM is open sourcing Cloudscape as ASF Derby. Open source code is available on the Apache Incubator Project site.  Early 2005: IBM will partner "with Zend Technologies to create a bundle called ZendCore, which includes IBM's Cloudscape-embedded database and Zend's PHP development tools. Zend sells tools built on the open-source edition of PHP and offers related services."

  10:38:38 PM  permalink  

'My way' has a history: Stephen Sestanovich, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, recalls German reunification and other cases where US policy pursued "maximalist" goals.  David Brooks calls it a "soft-power gift [of] America [to] tendency to imagine new worlds," and sees recent democratic action in the mid-East as a current example. But Sestanovich puts in more power-politics terms.  Referring to Rice's memoirs of the Bush 41 years, Rice "considered single-mindedness as the key to diplomatic success: a government that "knows what it wants" can usually get it. ..

Washington favored unification and wanted to achieve it as quickly as possible. In particular, American officials hoped for the rapid dismantlement of the East German state - a prospect America's allies viewed with horror. .. In the end, Bush and his advisers made no real adjustments to conciliate worried allies. ..

The Bush administration believed what most recent administrations have believed: America's allies were shortsighted and confused, and not tough-minded enough to achieve lasting success on a large scale. This was President Ronald Reagan's view when he scrapped détente. It was President Bill Clinton's view when he abandoned the policy of "containing" genocide in the Balkans. And it was Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's view when she explained what she meant in calling the United States an "indispensable" nation: "We see further than other countries into the future. "

Many Europeans might describe such ideas as arrogant or pernicious. But American maximalism needs to be understood for at least two reasons.

First, it is America's tradition. Even the first Bush administration, for all its reputed pragmatism, reached for big solutions that cut against the grain of events. When it acted more cautiously - like the "Chicken Kiev" speech warning Ukrainians not to seek independence and the muddled end of the Gulf war - the results were less favorable. Rice and her colleagues, who learned maximalism early, may need a new approach, but they won't find it in a mythical past of multilateral consensus-building.

More important, over the past-quarter century, maximalism has worked: One of its clearest results is the post-cold-war emergence of a stable and unified Europe. Iraq may illustrate the hazards of a maximalist approach. But anyone who wants to frame an alternative, not least the allied leaders whom Rice will meet this week, must begin by reckoning with this record of success."

  10:24:10 PM  permalink  

China's Quiet Rise Casts Wide Shadow: "China has emerged as an active and decisive leader in East Asia, transforming economic and diplomatic relationships across an area long dominated by the United States.  The shift in status, increasingly clear over the past year, has changed the way Chinese officials view their country's international role as well as the way other Asians look to Beijing for cues. In many ways, China has started to act like a traditional big power, tending to its regional interests and pulling smaller neighbors along in its wake. ..

China has taken the lead in organizing an East Asian summit conference for next November that, according to Chinese and other observers, will formalize Chinese regional leadership in several aspects.  A senior Chinese diplomat said it had not been decided whether the United States will be invited to attend and, if so, in what capacity. That the question of U.S. participation is even on the table dramatizes the shift in Asia's diplomatic landscape. ..

China's new face has been most apparent in its dealings with the ASEAN countries, mainly because of the economic equation. At China's initiative, for instance, ASEAN countries and China in December agreed to create a free-trade zone by 2010, which would further integrate neighboring countries into China's orbit.

Trade between China and the 10 ASEAN countries has increased about 20 percent a year since 1990, and the pace has picked up in the last several years. Bilateral trade hit $78.2 billion in 2003, up 42.8 percent from the previous year. Chinese and ASEAN officials said the figure was about $100 billion and rising by the end of 2004. ..

During the days of war and Japanese dominance, for instance, allied forces fought to prevent Tokyo from constructing a railroad from southern China through Vietnam, Laos and down to Singapore as a conduit for oil supplies. Now, Tao remarked, China has announced plans to build just such a railway. "

  10:08:30 PM  permalink  

Bush Gets Stoned by the World Media: "President Bush all but admits to illicit drug use for the first time.  Overseas it's the stuff of headlines. At home, the U.S. press has generally downplayed the story. The divergent coverage of Bush's apparent drug use is a textbook study in the difference between the international online media and their American counterparts. On the issue of youthful illicit drug use, most U.S. news editors -- liberal, conservative or other -- defer to Bush in a way that their foreign counterparts do not.

The New York Times broke the Bush marijuana story Friday in a front-page report on Doug Wead, a Christian activist who has published a book based in part on conversations with Bush that Wead secretly recorded in 1998 and 1999. On Wead's tapes, whose authenticity the White House does not dispute, Bush came close to admitting he had smoked marijuana and avoided answering a question about whether he had used cocaine.

"I wouldn't answer the marijuana questions. You know why? Because I don't want some little kid doing what I tried," Bush said.  On a question about cocaine, Bush said he would reply, "Rather than saying no ... I think it's time for someone to draw the line and look people in the eye and say, you know, 'I'm not going to participate in ugly rumors about me and blame my opponents,' and hold the line. Stand up for a system that will not allow this kind of crap to go on,'" according to a transcript excerpt posted on ABC's "Good Morning America" Web site.

Since Bush has never acknowledged using drugs, the international media played up the marijuana angle. .. In contrast, most of the traditional leaders of American journalism -- the New York Times, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times and the TV networks -- made no mention of drugs in their headlines .. the news was not "pot" but the "past," a word choice that signaled that the accompanying news story was not really new."

  10:01:51 PM  permalink  

daily link  Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Nanotech investment stats: From a story in may 2004: "The National Science Foundation projects the entire market could be worth $1 trillion by 2016. That's a huge and almost entirely new market, but also well past the 10-year venture capital fund investment horizon.  Worse, still, for VCs hoping to exit profitably from the nanotech startups accumulating in their portfolios: Major corporations worldwide are working feverishly to apply nanotechnology to specific products and services, giving many, at least theoretically, a serious leg up on startups with far less capital and far fewer real products upon which to test their new nanowares.  More than 700 companies are collectively spending about $3 billion on nanotechnology research and development this year alone, according to Lux Capital, with only a handful of them venture capital-backed startups."  2:14:48 PM  permalink  

How E2 works:  July 2002: "Automakers said the new limits on emissions that state lawmakers were considering would hurt the economy and prevent consumers from buying sport-utility vehicles. Environmentalists said they would help curb global warming. Into the fray stepped Environmental Entrepreneurs, insisting that business and environmental interests are not at odds. 

Last week's passage of the Assembly bill limiting greenhouse-gas emissions -- the first of its kind in the country -- was just what Nicole Lederer and Bob Epstein envisioned for Environmental Entrepreneurs, a 2-year-old group of business leaders who support environmental causes.

E2, as the group is known, presented undecided Assembly members with business leaders -- mostly Silicon Valley financiers and tech executives -- who supported the bill. That gave politicians a defense against the charge that they were anti-business.  ``They were essential to the passage of the bill,'' said Anne Baker, a staff member for Assemblywoman Fran Pavley, D-Woodland Hills, who created the bill. ``They wrote Op-Eds, they wrote to legislators, they came here and met with members of the state Assembly on a regular basis. They were relentless.'' ..

Rick deGolia, chief executive of Fonelet Technology, a San Francisco start-up, appreciates the approach E2 takes, particularly how it makes presentations, called "ecosalons,'' to members about environmental issues.  "They're professional, sophisticated, mature,'' said deGolia, who hosted one on the oceans last year at his home. "They're helpful to me to gain expert knowledge from people who are really dedicating their lives to environmental issues and presenting them in a way that's very valuable to business leaders.''

A call to action from E2 often means clicking ``Yes'' in response to an e-mail asking for permission to use the member's name and professional status in literature supporting a legislative goal. To rally behind Pavley's emissions bill in March, E2 gathered 86 names over e-mail and submitted them to legislators as evidence that the business community was in favor of tougher environmental policy.

E2 is a select group. It requires a minimum contribution of $1,000 to the NRDC to join; so far E2 has raised $1.8 million.   Epstein also has started a pet project called E2 Venture Endowment -- a fund to support start-ups working on technology that helps the environment or makes another technology cleaner."

  12:43:31 PM  permalink  

ISO conversion: How to convert a CDROM to an ISO image file.  Useful when working with virtual machines.  11:52:58 AM  permalink  

MySQL Update: "Managers at Open Source database provider MySQL are squarely targeting the enterprise DBA and IT exec in 2005. With last month's major MySQL 4.1 upgrade, the Open Source DB now offers a set of new graphical query views, admin tools, and clustering support for high availability.  .. [in 2005, they plan] MySQL 5.0, adding some more key features eagerly awaited by enterprises and ISVs, including support for stored procedures" and views and cursors.  11:46:17 AM  permalink  

Firebird Relational Database: "Firebird is a relational database offering many ANSI SQL-99 features that runs on Linux, Windows, and a variety of Unix platforms. Firebird offers excellent concurrency, high performance, and powerful language support for stored procedures and triggers. It has been used in production systems, under a variety of names since 1981.

Firebird is a commercially independent project of C and C++ programmers, technical advisors and supporters developing and enhancing a multi-platform relational database management system based on the source code released by Inprise Corp (now known as Borland Software Corp) on 25 July, 2000 under the InterBase Public License v.1.0. New code modules added to Firebird are licensed under the Initial Developer's Public License. (IDPL). The original modules released by Inprise are licensed under the InterBase Public License v.1.0. Both licences are modified versions of the Mozilla Public License v.1.1. "

  11:42:56 AM  permalink  

IT Using More Open Source Databases: "Researchers at Evans Data Corp. have found a strong uptick in usage of a variety of Open Source databases throughout corporate U.S. In Evans' Winter 2005 Database Development Survey of developers and DBAs released this month, Evans found two-thirds use Open Source DBs, and 50% use (or plan to use) XQuery and other open web services standards with their data..

Aside from the traditional names of MySQL and PostgreSQL, Evans also found the FireBird Open Source databases making some inroads -- particularly in the "edge" sector of networking. Evans found FireBird is the most used database period for 'edge' applications, Microsoft Access is a close second (at 21%). In addition, MySQL and FireBird are locked in a virtual tie in the open source database space with each being used by just over half of database developers who use open source databases. ..

"Right now, if a developer wants to put together some type of project, and can't get the CIO to authorize the funding, he can now simply download a free database and build an enterprise-caliber project based on this database," [the analyst] said."

  11:40:15 AM  permalink  

daily link  Thursday, February 17, 2005

SITE Institute: Map of Future Al-Qaeda Operations: "A message posted to a leading al-Qaeda-frequented Jihadist message board on February 12, 2005, purports to answer the questions: “What is the future of al-Qaeda? And what will the upcoming operations be?” " Answers include:

  • new mass event in the US, years in the making
  • disruption of oil infrastructure in the Gulf
  • assassination of US-allied Arab leaders
  12:53:28 PM  permalink  

John Robb covers Iraq's "controlled chaos":   Many useful links on a story that deserves more coverage.  "Loyalist paramilitaries are growing rapidly in Iraq (called "pop-ups" by the US military).  This is in response to the collapse in the attempts to build an Iraqi security system.  ..  The allure is that these groups are morally more cohesive than traditional government units. ..  As I anticipated, this development is being welcomed by the US military as a way to exit from Iraq ("controlled chaos"). ..

[Quoting WSJ:] As these irregular units proliferate, U.S. officials face a thorny dilemma: whether to encourage these forces, whose training and experience varies wildly, or to try to rein them in. "There is a tension between on the one hand encouraging and fostering initiative and on the other executing the plan for the Iraqi Security Forces that everyone agreed on," says Lt. Gen. David Petraeus. "To be candid, I would err on the side of fostering initiative. I want to get the hell out of here." .. "When I saw them and where they were living I decided this was a horse to back," the U.S. general says today. He agreed to give the fledgling unit money to fix up its base and buy vehicles, ammunition, radios and more weapons. "

  12:48:15 PM  permalink  

MSNBC - U.S. contractors in Iraq allege abuses: "Employees of a U.S. private contractor hired by the U.S. military to protect supplies say the brutality they witnessed against Iraqis led them to quit."  12:33:01 PM  permalink  

O'Reilly: Open Source Paradigm Shift:  A restatement of Tim's thesis of the last few years.  Some points I want to remember: "My premise is that free and open source developers are in much the same position today that IBM was in 1981 when it changed the rules of the computer industry, but failed to understand the consequences of the change, allowing others to reap the benefits. Most existing proprietary software vendors are no better off, playing by the old rules while the new rules are reshaping the industry around them.

I have a simple test that I use in my talks to see if my audience of computer industry professionals is thinking with the old paradigm or the new. "How many of you use Linux?" I ask. Depending on the venue, 20-80% of the audience might raise its hands. "How many of you use Google?" Every hand in the room goes up. And the light begins to dawn. Every one of them uses Google's massive complex of 100,000 Linux servers, but they were blinded to the answer by a mindset in which "the software you use" is defined as the software running on the computer in front of you. Most of the "killer apps" of the Internet, applications used by hundreds of millions of people, run on Linux or FreeBSD. But the operating system, as formerly defined, is to these applications only a component of a larger system. Their true platform is the Internet. ..

Sites such as Google, Amazon, and provide the most serious challenge to the traditional understanding of free and open source software. Here are applications built on top of Linux, but they are fiercely proprietary. What's more, even when using and modifying software distributed under the most restrictive of free software licenses, the GPL, these sites are not constrained by any of its provisions, all of which are conditioned on the old paradigm. The GPL's protections are triggered by the act of software distribution, yet web-based application vendors never distribute any software: it is simply performed on the Internet's global stage, delivered as a service rather than as a packaged software application. ..

And the opportunities are not merely up the stack. There are huge proprietary opportunities hidden inside the system. .. We saw this pattern in the PC market with most PCs now bearing the brand "Intel Inside"; the Internet could just as easily be branded "Cisco Inside". ..

[On open source style collaboration as a generator of value:] those that have built large development communities have done so because they have a modular architecture that allows easy participation by independent or loosely coordinated developers. The use of Perl, for example, exploded along with CPAN, the Comprehensive Perl Archive Network, and Perl's module system, which allowed anyone to enhance the language with specialized functions, and make them available to other users. ..

an observation originally made by Clay Shirky in a talk .. entitled "Listening to Napster." There are three ways to build a large database, said Clay. The first, demonstrated by Yahoo!, is to pay people to do it. The second, inspired by lessons from the open source community, is to get volunteers to perform the same task. The Open Directory Project, an open source Yahoo! competitor, is the result. (Wikipedia provides another example.) But Napster demonstrates a third way. Because Napster set its defaults to automatically share any music that was downloaded, every user automatically helped to build the value of the shared database. .."

  12:09:29 PM  permalink  

Network Startup Resource Center: A venerable source of help, founded by Randy Bush about the same time as CGNET.  "The Network Startup Resource Center (NSRC), a non-profit organization, has worked since the late 1980s to help develop and deploy networking technology in various projects throughout Asia/Pacific, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, the Middle East, and the New Independent States. Partially supported by the US National Science Foundation, the NSRC provides technical and engineering assistance to international networking initiatives building access to the public Internet, especially to academic/research institutions and non-governmental organizations (NGOs)."  Nice recent shot from Bhutan.

  11:33:29 AM  permalink  

Sy Hersh lecture on Iraq, the neo-cons, and torture.  20 minute video.  9:48:34 AM  permalink  

Thomas L. Friedman: No Mullah Left Behind:  Excellent NYT column, reprinted widely in the US and overseas (India, Pakistan, Europe).  "The [WSJ] added, the conservative mullahs are feeling even more emboldened to argue that with high oil prices, Iran doesn't need Western investment capital and should feel "free to pursue its nuclear power program without interference." This is a perfect example of the Bush energy policy at work, and the Bush energy policy is: "No Mullah Left Behind."

By adamantly refusing to do anything to improve energy conservation in America, or to phase in a $1-a-gallon gasoline tax on American drivers, or to demand increased mileage from Detroit's automakers, or to develop a crash program for renewable sources of energy, the Bush team is - as others have noted - financing both sides of the war on terrorism. We are financing the U.S. armed forces with our tax dollars, and, through our profligate use of energy, we are generating huge windfall profits for Saudi Arabia, Iran and Sudan, where the cash is used to insulate the regimes from any pressure to open up their economies, liberate their women or modernize their schools, and where it ends up instead financing madrassas, mosques and militants fundamentally opposed to the progressive, pluralistic agenda America is trying to promote. Now how smart is that? ..

[We need] a "geo-green" strategy. As a geo-green, I believe that combining environmentalism and geopolitics is the most moral and realistic strategy the U.S. could pursue today. Imagine if President Bush used his bully pulpit and political capital to focus the nation on sharply lowering energy consumption and embracing a gasoline tax.

What would that buy? It would buy reform in some of the worst regimes in the world, from Tehran to Moscow. It would reduce the chances that the U.S. and China are going to have a global struggle over oil - which is where we are heading. It would help us to strengthen the dollar and reduce the current account deficit by importing less crude. It would reduce climate change more than anything in Kyoto. It would significantly improve America's standing in the world by making us good global citizens. It would shrink the budget deficit. It would reduce our dependence on the Saudis so we could tell them the truth. (Addicts never tell the truth to their pushers.) And it would pull China away from its drift into supporting some of the worst governments in the world, like Sudan's, because it needs their oil. Most important, making energy independence our generation's moon shot could help inspire more young people to go into science and engineering, which we desperately need.

Sadly, the Bush team won't even consider this. .. President Bush has a better project: borrowing another trillion dollars, which will make us that much more dependent on countries like China and Saudi Arabia that hold our debt - so that you might, if you do everything right and live long enough, get a few more bucks out of your Social Security account. 

The president's priorities are totally nuts."

  1:56:50 AM  permalink  

WorldChanging: Nanotechnology and the Developing World:  "the Global Dialogue on Nanotechnology and the Poor [is] a project intended to trigger a conversation about the ways in which nanotechnology can be applied to the problems of development and poverty. Anyone may participate .."  SciDevNet covers the conference and has an introduction to the material.   The 29-page report covers risks as well as benefits, with a useful appendix showing the UN Millenium Goals for reference.

This has been a major interest of mine since 2000.  The bottom line for me came down to two things:  nano-engineered materials for energy and water.  Nanotech's first fruits are a new universe of materials with electrical and chemical properties that will offer new options to engineers of all goods, including those meeting basic needs.  It's like plastics a century ago; we're at the start of a decades-long absorbtion of new possibilities, both good and bad.  This time the changes will come faster, sped up by computer-aided design and manufacturing.   (Nano-assembly, whenever it arrives, will only further add to the changes.) 

For developing countries, the key benefits are in the basics for manufacturing and urban life.

  • purified or desalinated water
  • distributed electric generation and new options for fuel, ideally from renewable sources with hydrogen and/or battery storage of power
  • more efficient use of energy and materials overall 

I think this will be on balance good for the environment, in its greater material efficiency.  However, nano-engineered materials will also be applied to increase the efficiency of raw material extraction, such as taking fossil fuels from the earth faster and cheaper.  It will also give rise to more extravagant ways to use energy in the developed world, perhaps super-sonic transport, large-scale military applications, or ever-larger interiors for housing and commerce.  I am optimistic that enough funding and volunteer attention will be given to pollution-reducing and poverty-alleviating applications to tip the balance.  (I think that the top-down and exploitative applications have been refined so much already, that it's probably easier for researchers and innovators to have a big impact in the less-explored sustainable applications.)

  1:37:18 AM  permalink  

Nanotubes crank out hydrogen: "Several research efforts are using materials engineered at the molecular scale to tap the sun as an energy source to extract hydrogen from water. Researchers from Pennsylvania State University have constructed a material made from titanium dioxide nanotubes that is 97 percent efficient at harvesting the ultraviolet portion of the sun's light and 6.8 percent efficient at extracting hydrogen from water. 

The material is easy to make, inexpensive, and photochemically stable, according to the researchers. The 97 percent efficiency is the highest reported, according to the researchers. There is one catch -- only five percent of the sun's energy is ultraviolet light.   The researchers are working to find a way to shift the response of the nanotube arrays into the visible spectrum.  The key to making titanium dioxide nanotubes that efficiently harvest the energy from light is controlling the thickness of the nanotube walls, according to the researchers. Nanotubes 224 nanometers long with 34-nanometer-thick walls are three times more efficient than those that are 120 nanometers long with 9-nanometer-thick walls.

The researchers made the titanium dioxide nanotube material by mixing titanium with acid and electrifying the mixture, which caused the tiny tubes to grow, then heating them to cause the material to crystallize."  [via WorldChanging]  1:01:08 AM  permalink  

daily link  Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Geeklog - The Ultimate Weblog System: "Geeklog is a 'blog', otherwise known as a Weblog. It allows you to create your own virtual community area, complete with user administration, story posting, messaging, comments, polls, calendar, weblinks, and more! It can run on many different operating systems, and uses PHP4 and MySQL."  2:07:49 PM  permalink  

FM radio from your PC: "PCI MAX 2005 is a computer card that will .. change your PC into a FM radio station. You will be able to play your audio files (CD, wav, MP3, real audio etc.) from your PC through radio waves directly to your household radio receiver in the next room, in the living room, across your yard, in whole block of flats....or for the entire village/small city. .. The included software (also available at the link below for a quick DL) lets you set the frequency and the output power. "  Discussion of alternative products on  9:45:46 AM  permalink  

Cheap earthquake-proof walls: "An innovative house design just passed the most rigorous possible test for standing up in earthquakes. The 2-story test unit, built using inexpensive, off-the-shelf materials, has no frame and uses no wood. On a “shake table” in a Cincinnati lab on Wednesday, the structure stayed intact through the strongest earthquake-like shaking in three dimensions. ..

“Wednesday’s test showed that a home built from these materials would have survived the most severe earthquake ever recorded,” said Rachel Jagoda, the FAS Housing Technology Project Manager, who supervised it.  “This test demonstrates that homes can meet the most rigorous seismic standards without increasing cost. In fact the structure is less expensive to build than standard 2’x4’ framed construction and much more energy efficient.”

The construction system uses panels for the walls, floor and ceiling. Each panel is in effect a sandwich of expanded polystyrene material similar to Styrofoam in coffee cups. It is cladded on both sides with cement board, a product now used in rooms where moisture may be a problem. No wood is required to make these structures rigid.

FAS will use the technology to build an elegant home in Houston this summer, demonstrating that it is compatible with the highest standards of U.S. architecture. The system could have wide application as low-cost housing that is safe in areas prone to severe earthquakes such as Afghanistan and Turkey. “"

Update: WorldChanging carries a more complete and well-linked summary.

  9:06:56 AM  permalink  

daily link  Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Biofuel and ethanol summary:  Short look at non-ethanol fuels, and longer consideration of the economics and technology of ethanol.  Links to future technologies (cellulose enzymes, biorefineries).  11:01:37 AM  permalink  

daily link  Saturday, February 12, 2005

dorkbot-sf: A local chapter of the international network of dorkbot groups, "people doing strange things with electricity."  Just in the last month in SF:  cool wierd constructions of robots, dystopian security systems, and real life laminar design tools for anyone to build the object they model in 3d in their computer.  Spime builders international.  (Thanks for the tip, Scott!)

  9:54:52 AM  permalink  

daily link  Friday, February 11, 2005

The efficiency of cars, with or without hybrid technology: An important UCS study from January 2003. Compared to today's 23 mpg US fleet average:

  • A fleet of passenger cars and trucks using conventional technology has the potential to reach a fleet average of 40 mpg. The average vehicle in this fleet will cost about $1,700 more in the showroom, but will save consumers $3,800 at the gas pump over the vehicle’s 15-year life for a net savings of $2,100.
  • A fleet of mild hybrids can reach nearly 50 mpg, with a retail price increase of about $2,900 by using advanced technologies available to automakers within this decade. Lifetime gasoline savings will amount to $4,700, producing a net savings of $1,500 for the average driver when the cost of battery replacement is included.
  • Full hybrids using advanced technology are the key to a passenger car and truck fleet that approaches an average of 60 mpg. The average price increase for such vehicles is about $4,000 and the owners will save nearly $5,500 on gasoline over the life of the vehicle. Including battery replacement, consumers would see an average net savings of $900. Plug-in hybrids would realize even greater energy security and environmental gains, but with higher costs and lower net consumer savings.
  9:18:09 AM  permalink  

daily link  Thursday, February 10, 2005

Winners and sinners on global warming:  Good story on how the Kyoto Protocol was improved under US pressure, and how it has finally come into force.  11:06:53 PM  permalink  

Eggplant Demo: Neat testing application that uses VNC (from a Mac!) to run graphics-based user interactions against code under test.  Good for cross-platform testing.  Very good demonstration movie, too.  2:49:43 PM  permalink  

daily link  Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Mike Olson on XQuery and Database Technologies:  I've been learning more about berkeley db and berkeley db xml from sleepycat software. They're open source for end users, and lisenced to software or hardware developers that embed it into products. This interview is interesting for showing how sleepycat thinks about sql vs xml, and for talking about xquery, xml schema and other topics. And the page carries a list of relevant links in its right margin for further reading.


  8:49:36 AM  permalink  

daily link  Monday, February 07, 2005

Ethiopians unite for Marley anniversary: "About 200,000 people gathered in Ethiopia's capital Sunday to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the birth of reggae icon Bob Marley. The concert, dubbed Africa Unite and billed as the country's largest ever, marks the first time the late reggae star's birthday celebrations have ever been held outside his native Jamaica. Marley, who died of cancer in 1981. .. Jamaican Prime Minister P.J. Patterson also declared an official year-long celebration to honour Marley's birth."  In the 80s, I spent 5 years on the road in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.  I don't think I spent a week without hearing Marley's music in the street or on the radio.   Long live liberation music.

  11:50:26 PM  permalink  

Slashdot | Open Source Licensing and Slashdot | A Compact Guide To F/OSS Licensing: Reviews of two good books on open source licensing.  12:15:41 AM  permalink  

Sun Grid: $1/cpu-hour, with storage at $1/GB/month.  Maybe they have a future after all :)  12:12:32 AM  permalink  

EPIC 2014: Very amusing flash projection of media in 2014.  Worth all 8 minutes.  12:04:47 AM  permalink  

daily link  Sunday, February 06, 2005

NexTag:  Interesting comparison shopping site, esp for used and refurb computer gear.  They show graphs of the price over the last few years, kinda like stocks except the slope is always sharply down... for example, an Acer Notebook.

  10:26:34 AM  permalink  

daily link  Saturday, February 05, 2005

Phone Scoop - database of cell phone specs & features: Nifty search & compare by carrier and many attributes of phones.  11:08:28 PM  permalink  

Telligent Systems: "We manage and maintain 3 of the most popular Microsoft Open Source projects: The Community Server :: Forums (formerly known as ASP.NET Forums), a rich web based discussion systems; Community Server :: Blogs (formerly known as .Text), the most popular Microsoft blogging platform; and Community Server :: Gallery (formerly known as nGallery) a rich photo gallery application. "  10:42:00 PM  permalink  

daily link  Friday, February 04, 2005

gumstix: Nifty tiny processors that can run Linux, with bluetooth and adaptors for USB and other I/O.  10:12:25 AM  permalink  

More on the AMD PIC:  Cringely offers some info and suggested applications outside the developing world:  "the OS is Windows CE. It keeps user changes and personal settings on a separate disk partition so that the main OS partition can be updated at any time back to factory settings from a hidden 'factory reload' partition. It has no legacy interfaces at all (just VGA, RJ11 modem, AC'97 audio ports, and four USB 1.1 ports). It has no fan or even any passive ventilation. It has a 366 Mhz AMD Geode processor, 128-megs of SDRAM, and a 10-gig Seagate hard drive. It is ugly [but] cheap.  Think of the PIC as a cheaper, dumber Mac Mini. ..

in the ultra-low-end computer market right now as consumers are starting to use mobile phones to perform functions that might previously have been done with handheld computers like the iPaq. As a result, handheld sales are actually dropping, which in the PC market means the niche is already dead. .. The logical thing to do, it seems to me, is to split the niche into its two component parts -- mobile communication and cheap computing. Phones get the nod for mobility, but HP and Dell could easily pick up the cheap computing segment by selling many sub-varieties of PIC. It is ideal for home automation, for becoming a car video server to end drowning in Dora the Explorer DVDs, for acting as a home Internet gateway, for hosting the inevitable VoIP home PBX -- each a 100 million unit market, and each totally untapped by the big OEMs. .. Given a bit more effort on AMD's part, this little guy could be used to replace fading K-12 PCs all over America at prices that schools can actually afford. The power savings alone are such that an eight watt PIC will pay for itself in under two years. .. "

Cringely links to a page showing an Antiguan hacker's view of the PIC, and the AMD annoucement page that says that Linux will soon run on it.

  10:11:29 AM  permalink  

GE Expands Financing to Clean Energy Technologies: "Not only is GE one of the largest players in the U.S. clean energy market, but they also boast a hefty commercial finance arm. The company is now putting their expertise and skills in those two areas together through a new venture. GE Commercial Finance is launching an initiative to provide financial solutions to the growing number of companies focused on clean energy and related technologies. The initiative is a joint effort of GE Commercial Finance's Technology Lending and Energy Financial Services businesses. "  10:04:13 AM  permalink  

daily link  Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Investing for Change:  Good review of socially responsible investing (SRI), from a Microsoft millionaire.  Interesting recent history: In general, "SRI funds are at least as profitable as, or more profitable than, the Standard & Poor's 500 index, which is the traditional benchmark of performance for mutual funds and individual stocks. In his interview with Grist, eco-portfolio director Patsky said, "That proved true under Reagan, and Bush I, and Clinton: Stocks of companies that were good environmental citizens outperformed those that weren't." Amy Domini, founder of Domini Social Investments, says the Domini 400 Index has outperformed the S&P over the past year, the past three years, and the past 10 years. " 

But not true under Bush II.  I suspect that oil and miltary stocks had something to do with that.  And: Matt Patsky, portfolio director of Winslow Management Co., a "green" investing firm, recently told the environmental magazine Grist that " . . . for the first time ever, over the last two years . . . the best performing stocks in the S&P 500 were the companies that have been the most flagrant environmental polluters. .. Investors are starting to believe there is no liability: that the EPA is ineffective, that there is no enforcement, and that polluters will never have to pay the piper."

One graphic example:  "Last November, the Los Angeles Times reported an epidemic of 50,000 young children sickened by ingesting rat poison after the Bush administration removed two safety requirements for manufacturers: an ingredient that makes the poison taste bitter and a dye to make it more obvious when it's ingested. The Washington Post reported that the Natural Resources Defense Council has documents "showing that Bush's EPA not only worked hand in hand with the industry, but also complied when manufacturers wanted the risks associated with rat poison downplayed in EPA assessments." "

  9:43:09 AM  permalink  

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