Updated: 5/16/2006; 12:26:13 PM.

Ken Novak's Weblog
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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 salesforce.com 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  

 

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Last update: 5/16/2006; 12:26:13 PM.