Ken Novak's Weblog
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Ken Novak's Weblog

daily link  Friday, September 30, 2005

Engadget 1985:  Nostalgia for computing 20 years ago.  11:45:13 PM  permalink  

daily link  Monday, September 26, 2005

Current BPL Internet Service Plenty Fast: An early user of BPL (Broadband over Power Line) Internet service from Current Communications over a local Cincinatti power company, Cinergy.  "To use the service, you get a BPL modem. It looks like a largish wall-wart power plug with some LEDs on it. It has an RJ-45 jack on it to connect to a computer or a router. That's about it.  We opted for the Cadillac level service: 3mbps up, 3mbps down, and a dedicated IP. That runs $49.95 a month, but the price decreases as more people in my neighborhood sign up (my current price with >3 neighbors signed up is a paltry $42.46)"  Measured performance:  3.5 mbps downline, 4.2 mbps uplink (!).  12:58:35 PM  permalink  

Bill Clinton, Beyond the White House: Tina Brown captures some of the spirit of the Clinton Global Initiative (which now has photos and transcripts online).  "This wasn't just the usual FOBs from Park Avenue and Hollywood (though there were plenty of those cruising around). With so many world policy chiefs present -- Tony Blair, King Abdullah II of Jordan, Condi Rice, President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, even Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams, for heaven's sake -- the conference was a tour d'horizon of Clinton's life, and head, since the White House. (So that's what he's been doing on all those far-flung speaking gigs -- scarfing down public policy from the global minibar.) No one has figured out before how to leverage a post-presidency like this. Jimmy Carter's version has been about the power of example. Clinton's is about the power of power. He's been everywhere, met everyone (my favorite Clintonian aside: "As someone who went to Nigeria to plead for the life of a woman condemned under sharia law, I thank you for doing this."). Now he's putting that Rolodex to work for something bigger than the next campaign. ..

Unlike Davos and other high-octane gabfests, however, Clinton's conference wasn't just about elephant bumping. For every VIP there was some earnest activist or intellectual who has caught his eye.

Clinton seems to have found his role as facilitator-in-chief, urging us to give up our deadly national passivity and start thinking things through for ourselves. Commandeering the role of government through civic action suddenly feels like a very empowering notion ..

The White House doesn't seem to realize it yet, but we are entering a post-spin era in public life. The shift has long been underway in the business world, propelled by the Enron catastrophe and the collapse of the dot-com bubble. Process, not perception, is king in boardrooms today. After so much corporate malfeasance it all got too dire to put up with fake CEOs anymore.  Now after the Iraq debacle, the ballooning deficit and the aftermath of Katrina, Americans are pining for grounded leaders in public office, too -- leaders who have moral conviction, yes, but also the gnarly, dexterous ability to think things through."

  12:36:32 PM  permalink  

Update your Linksys router with Sveasoft's firmware: "In its GPL Code Center, Linksys provides the source code for most of its devices. However, unless you're a programmer, this isn't going to do you much good. What can help you out is what Sveasoft has done with that source code. Based in California, this company has taken Linksys' source code and created new versions for replacing factory firmware. Basically, installing this firmware takes a limited functionality $50 consumer router and adds many of the features of an enterprise router. ..

Sveasoft actually sports three different families of firmware: Sveasoft firmware for Linksys WRT54G and WRT54GS routers, Alchemy firmware that works with a list of routers (which is free and adds a lot of the features listed above), and the aforementioned Talisman firmware."

  12:05:41 PM  permalink  

A Sunshine Deal: Sep 2005: Southern California Edison (SCE), with 13 million customers, has just announced a deal with Phoenix-based Stirling Energy Systems that could result in a huge solar farm. .. SCE has agreed to purchase upwards of 500 megawatts of electricity from Stirling Energy Systems -- enough to provide all the energy needs to 278,000 homes -- or more than all other U.S. solar projects combined. While neither company has disclosed the financial details, SCE said the system will not require state subsidies.

The effort will begin with a pilot project: a proof-of-concept facility with 40 solar dishes producing one megawatt of energy. The test will take place over the next 18 months, and, if successful, Stirling Energy Systems will construct a 20,000-dish array over four years, covering 4,500 acres -- more than four times the size of the National Mall in DC -- in the desert northwest of Los Angeles.  "From our perspective, Stirling has established the viability of this at a laboratory level," says SCE spokesperson Gil Alexander. "This could be a turnaround point for solar." 

Stirling's dish technology, which was first developed by McDonnell-Douglas in the mid-1980s, makes use of a heat-driven engine, rather than photovoltaic panels. The company's deal with SCE marks its first utility-scaled energy application.  In the Stirling solar system, each dish is a round, mirrored surface measuring 37 feet in diameter that reflects and focuses light into the receiving end of a Stirling engine. .. "Our systems have peak efficiency of 29.4 percent -- that's the record for converting solar to grid-quality energy," says Stirling CEO Bruce Osborn. "

  10:44:49 AM  permalink  

Extensive energy plan for California:  "The new plan is projected to save 1,500 megawatts of electricity statewide by 2008 -- the same amount that three new power plants would produce. In terms of global warming emissions, the California Public Utilities Commission estimates the reductions are equivalent to removing 650,000 cars a year from California highways.

[It will] offer significantly more rebates every year to customers who purchase energy-efficient appliances such as air conditioners, furnaces and clothes washers. It also would pay for utilities to conduct voluntary energy audits at tens of thousands of businesses, schools, hospitals, homes and other buildings.  Under the plan, the PUC would require the state's major investor-owned utilities, such as Pacific Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison, to spend $2 billion between 2006 and 2008 to expand their energy efficiency programs. Those investments are expected to produce $5.4 billion in energy savings for ratepayers.  ..

By 2008, the state's four major utilities would spend $777 million a year on energy efficiency programs -- a 62 percent increase from the $479 million they will spend in 2005.   Under rules the state adopted in 1982, PG&E and other regulated utilities do not earn more profits when customers use more energy. They are guaranteed a set profit each year, and given incentives when consumers reduce energy. As a result of that program and others like it, California's per capita energy use already is the lowest in the United States -- 40 percent less than the U.S. average. ..

The funding for the new PUC program will come from three sources. First is a 1 percent increase in electricity and natural gas bills by 2008, which amounts to an increase of $1.61 a month for the average PG&E household bill of $122.23.  Second is the ``public goods charge,'' an existing fee for energy conservation programs of 1 percent that has been on California utility bills for about a decade. Finally, the bulk of the funding -- nearly two-thirds -- will come from money the utilities would have spent buying electricity and natural gas."  Passage confirmed at Red Herring.

  10:36:13 AM  permalink  

US Battery Research: Too Little, Too Late?: "The power gap between current needs and what batteries can deliver for electronics today reflects a decision made years ago to all but abandon basic battery research in favor of more flashy fuel-cell technology, says Donald Sadoway, a battery expert and professor of materials engineering at MIT .. "Fuel cells grabbed the money," but basic battery research was ignored for years before that as well, says Rob Enderle, an analyst at Enderle Group in San Jose. As a result, today's batteries remain relatively inefficient...

Interview with Sadoway: "I think that lithium ion can be pushed a little bit harder with electrode materials -- for the cathode in particular. There may be untapped capacity in certain materials that could dramatically improve the amount of energy storage in the battery by improving the cathode. I have cells operating at about 300 watts per kilogram, which is double what lithium ion is doing today. I think there's plenty of room at the top here ..

[The next big leap?] Solid-state batteries. We think the next improvement will come from eliminating any liquid from the battery. We think that there are opportunities for looking at multilayer thin-film laminate with no liquid, a polymer as the electrolyte separator. You're looking at something that's similar to a potato chip bag, a polymer web coated with a different layer of chemistry. We can make that by the square mile -- it's not difficult to do. We're talking about a doubling or tripling of the capacity of today's batteries, as opposed to a 20% or 30% improvement. [And it's safer.] A lot of the problems in advanced lithium ion batteries derive from the fact that you have an organic liquid. Lithium ion is not water-based. It's an organic liquid like an alcohol. It's flammable. If it gets hot, the pressure increases, and you'll break the case. It could catch fire. If we go with a polymer electrolyte, you don't have any liquid; it's inert when it comes to heat, plus you can shape it."

  9:47:53 AM  permalink  

Steve Lacey: How I put a podcast together: An audio gearhead takes on podcasting and shows how to do great sound. "My setup is way overboard. A cut down version of my setup with just Cubase, the E-MU 1820 and the Rode NT-1A microphone would work perfectly and give you great results. " [Thanks, John.]  8:32:56 AM  permalink  

Insurgents 'inside Iraqi police': "Insurgents have infiltrated Iraq's security services, National Security Adviser Muwafaq al-Rubaie has admitted.
Speaking on the BBC's Newsnight programme, he said he had no idea how far the services had been undermined, with problems "in many parts of Iraq". It comes after the British Army said it was forced to take action to free two UK soldiers after learning Iraqi police had handed them to a militia group... Iraq's interior ministry ordered the police force in Basra to release the soldiers - but that order was ignored. ..

Colonel Bill Dunham, the chief of staff for the multinational force in Basra, told BBC radio the infiltration of insurgents into Iraq's security forces was a problem across Iraq.  A report released by the US defence department in July blamed the problem on poor vetting procedures and recommended that the quality of records at Iraq's interior ministry be checked. "

  8:24:58 AM  permalink  

daily link  Sunday, September 25, 2005

You Say Okjeryok, I Say Deterrent: From Tong Kim, recently retired from the State Department, where he was the senior Korean interpreter for high-level meetings involving U.S. officials, now at Korea University in Seoul.  "In contrast to the American media description of North Korea as a "Stalinist Communist state," I have come to see it as a Confucian nationalist monarchy, based on traditional Korean values and reflecting the bitterness born of foreign invasions throughout Korean history. In Confucian society, loyalty to the ruler and respect for elders are basic tenets. The iconic stature of the late "great leader" Kim Il Sung isn't that different from the Confucian image of a divine ruler. .. Recently the younger Kim said that denuclearization of the Korean peninsula was the last wish of his father; I think he really believes that carrying out his father's will is his filial duty in the Korean tradition."

  8:26:21 PM  permalink  

Toshiba announces better battery for 2006: March 2005:  "Toshiba Corporation today announced a breakthrough in lithium-ion batteries that .. can recharge 80% of a battery's energy capacity in only one minute, approximately 60 times faster than the typical lithium-ion batteries in wide use today, and combines this fast recharge time with improvements in energy density. ..  the negative electrode uses new nano-particles to prevent organic liquid electrolytes from reducing during battery recharging. The nano-particles quickly absorb and store vast amount of lithium ions, without causing any deterioration in the electrode. ..

The battery has a long life cycle, losing only 1% of capacity after 1,000 cycles of discharging and recharging, and can operate at very low temperatures. At minus 40 degrees centigrade, the battery can discharge 80% of its capacity, against 100% in an ambient temperature of 25 degree centigrade).

Toshiba will bring the new rechargeable battery to commercial products in 2006. Initial applications will be in the automotive and industrial sectors .. tTe battery's advantages in size, weight and safety highly suit it for a role as an alternative power source for hybrid electric vehicles."  This is faster than expected; nano particles to accelerate charge and discharge and improve density have been reported in universities, while this is an announced product.

  11:05:26 AM  permalink  

Use Of Nanomaterials in Organic Photovoltaic Devices: Introductory list of approaches to nanoengineered organic PVs.  10:47:36 AM  permalink  

daily link  Saturday, September 24, 2005

Clinton Global Initiative, 9/17/05: I posted some photos from the event.  I felt a bit conspicuous taking photos, so it's far from comprehensive, mostly just the receptions, but it might give a little flavor of it.  (And there's a few shots from a Climate Group reception the night before, and a show at the Vanguard the night after the conference.)  9:30:41 PM  permalink  

daily link  Thursday, September 22, 2005

Need Answers? Ask Anybody: NYT review of Google Answers (free lance general researchers that get paid), (paid traditional professionals like tax lawyers and computer technicians), and (a no-fee exchange of questions and answers with optional tipping).  8:13:20 AM  permalink  

Don't Ignore Western Europe: "Western Europe is a core recruiting ground for Muslim terrorists that is being overlooked given the U.S. focus on Iraq and the Middle East, according to Francis Fukuyama, academic dean of Johns Hopkins University's Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies. The failure of European countries to assimilate their large and growing Muslim populations in the era of globalization has caused an alienation among the young that has created a "hard core for terrorism," Fukuyama said in Washington at a bipartisan policy forum on terrorism and security, sponsored by the New America Foundation.

"Fixing the Middle East is only part of the problem. It is a West European problem, too," Fukuyama said. He pointed out that the leaders of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks came out of a cell in Hamburg and that most of the extremists participating in the more recent bombings in Spain and England were born in those countries.  Fukuyama's analysis squares with recent CIA conclusions about the importance of Western Europe, where, as one former senior intelligence official put it yesterday, "there are 10 million Muslims . . . that are not integrated into their societies."

Fukuyama called this one area of the war against terrorism in which U.S. and European interests merge and joint cooperation has begun to be productive. The Europeans "need to understand American assimilation" because their approach of "multiculturalism has been a failure," Fukuyama said"

  8:09:00 AM  permalink  

daily link  Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Ford plans to boost hybrid engine production : "Gas-electric hybrid engines will be available in half the Ford, Lincoln and Mercury lineup by 2010, Ford Motor Co. Chairman and CEO Bill Ford said Wednesday. He said the automaker will be able to produce 250,000 hybrids in the next five years. It currently has two sport utility vehicles on the market. ..

the company will be releasing four vehicles that can run on fuel-efficient ethanol in 2006: the F-150 truck and Crown Victoria, Grand Marquis and Lincoln Town Car sedans.  Ford said the automaker plans to produce 280,000 ethanol-capable vehicles in 2006."

This is a rapid rate of change for an auto company.  It has become more feasible with computerized product life cycle software, which has been reported to have cut design time for new car models from 4 years to 1.5 - 2 years.  This includes design of the robot-driven assembly plants and simulation of the supply chain.  (Sorry, no citation here; I think I read it in a recent Economist.)

  12:52:18 PM  permalink  

Taking Stock of the Forever War: Excellent long NYT article on the strategy and successes of Al Queda.   Strong parallels to the guerilla strategies of the Irgun against the British in Palestine, and the American provocation of the Soviets to draw them into Afghanistan.   To the future:  " truly democratic Iraq was always likely to be an Iraq led not only by Shia, who are the majority of Iraqis, but by those Shia parties that are the largest and best organized - the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq and the Dawa Islamic Party - which happen to be those blessed by the religious authorities and nurtured in Iran. Nor would it be a surprise if a democratic Saudi Arabia turned out to be a fundamentalist Saudi Arabia and one much less friendly to the United States. Osama bin Laden knows this, and so do American officials. This is why the United States is "friendly" with "apostate regimes." Democratic outcomes do not always ensure friendly governments. Often the contrary is true. On this simple fact depends much of the history of American policy not only in the Middle East but also in Latin America and other parts of the world throughout the cold war. Bush administration officials, for all their ideological fervor, did the country no favor by ignoring it. ..

Marc Sageman, a psychiatrist and former C.I.A. case officer who has studied the structure of the network, has written. "The movement has now degenerated into something like the Internet. Spontaneous groups of friends, as in Madrid and Casablanca, who have few links to any central leadership, are generating sometimes very dangerous terrorist operations, notwithstanding their frequent errors and poor training." Under this view, Al Qaeda, in the form we knew it, has been subsumed into the broader, more diffuse political world of radical Salafi politics. "The network is now self-organized from the bottom up and is very decentralized," Sageman wrote. "With local initiative and flexibility, it's very robust." We have entered the era of the amateurs. ..

Attacks staged by amateurs with little or no connection to terrorist networks, and thus no visible trail to follow, are nearly impossible to prevent, even for the United States, with all of its power. Indeed, perhaps what is most astonishing about these hard four years is that we have managed to show the world the limits of our power. In launching a war on Iraq that we have been unable to win, we have done the one thing a leader is supposed never to do: issue a command that is not followed. A withdrawal from Iraq, rapid or slow, with the Islamists still holding the field, will signal, as bin Laden anticipated, a failure of American will. Those who will view such a withdrawal as the critical first step in a broader retreat from the Middle East will surely be encouraged to go on the attack. "

  9:09:18 AM  permalink  

daily link  Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The Ashden Awards for Sustainable Energy: "The Ashden Awards reward outstanding, inspirational and innovative local sustainable energy schemes that both protect the environment, tackle climate change and make real improvements to people's quality of life.  The Awards are designed to encourage wider take-up of local energy solutions worldwide - proving to the public and policy makers alike that such schemes offer viable, practical ways of tackling poverty, resource shortages and climate change.  In 2005, we are offering up to £250,000 in prizes to renewable energy and energy efficiency schemes in both the developing world and the UK. "  First annual awards were 2001.  2005 awards announced in June, mostly for commnunity projects or commercialization efforts in developing countries.  Associated with Forum for the Future.  12:01:01 AM  permalink  

daily link  Monday, September 19, 2005

Privatized Global Problem Solving, Care of Clinton Alumni: Early coverage of the end of the Clinton Global Initiative conference in New York:  "the first meeting of the former president's Clinton Global Initiative, which drew about 2,000 government, business and civic leaders, was surprisingly devoid of nostalgia or recrimination.   The conference's dominant ethos seemed to be: If we are out of power, let's see what else we can do to advance our priorities. As it turned out, the answer looked to be: quite a lot. ..

The commitments were as diverse as the audience. Michael Jordan's mother said her foundation would build a hospital for women and children in Nairobi, Kenya. Sir Tom Hunter, a charismatic, bullet-headed Scottish businessman, pledged $100 million to create comprehensive development plans for two poor countries with the aim of producing models that could be replicated elsewhere. Starbucks said that by 2007 it would buy a majority of its coffee at premium prices from growers who used environmentally sound methods and equitably compensated small farmers.  Cellphone service for the Gaza Strip, a $100-million investment fund for African business, a $300-million capital fund for clean-energy technologies in Europe, programs for young girls in Bangladesh and Brazil and for AIDS orphans in Africa — all made the list.  Late Saturday, Clinton put the total at 190 commitments valued, on paper, at $1.25 billion. ..

As [Clinton] has recognized, nonprofit groups and like-minded corporate executives have never believed more in their ability to influence global problems, with or without government sanction. Nor have governments ever looked more to the assistance of private players. "

I attended the CGI.  It felt like a meeting of a global civil society, with NGO's and business best represented, followed by governments, media and even celebrities.  I learned a lot, and heard a number of novel ideas, which I'll blog as time permits in the coming week.

  11:28:45 PM  permalink  

Vizu: Site that lets users create polls, link to them from their blogs, rank the polls and especially those who respond for how closely they predict other users.  11:13:08 PM  permalink  

ccMixter: Neat site with music remixes under Creative Commons lisences.  Music is tagged and ranked by the listeners, making for interesting ad hoc browsing.  Here's one downbeat selection.  11:02:15 PM  permalink  

Tactical iraqi: Self-paced language learning based on interacting with a computer game.  "Tactical Iraqi is based on the Tactical Language Training System (TLTS) researched, invented and developed at the Information Sciences Institute of the University of Southern California.  TLTS rapidly teaches basic spoken conversational skills in languages that few people learn because they are considered to be very difficult.  It is a self-paced system that gives people enough knowledge of language and culture to carry out specific tasks and civil affairs missions"  10:36:18 PM  permalink  

Paper Says Edible Meat Can be Grown in a Lab on Industrial Scale: "In a paper in the June 29 [2005] issue of Tissue Engineering, a team of scientists, including University of Maryland doctoral student Jason Matheny, propose two new techniques of tissue engineering that may one day lead to affordable production of in vitro - lab grown -- meat for human consumption. It is the first peer-reviewed discussion of the prospects for industrial production of cultured meat.

"There would be a lot of benefits from cultured meat," says Matheny, who studies agricultural economics and public health. "For one thing, you could control the nutrients. For example, most meats are high in the fatty acid Omega 6, which can cause high cholesterol and other health problems. With in vitro meat, you could replace that with Omega 3, which is a healthy fat.   "Cultured meat could also reduce the pollution that results from raising livestock, and you wouldn't need the drugs that are used on animals raised for meat." ..

"cultured meat could appeal to people concerned about food safety, the environment, and animal welfare, and people who want to tailor food to their individual tastes," says Matheny. The paper even suggests that meat makers may one day sit next to bread makers on the kitchen counter.  "The benefits could be enormous," Matheny says. "The demand for meat is increasing world wide -- China 's meat demand is doubling every ten years. Poultry consumption in India has doubled in the last five years.  ..

Matheny saw so many advantages in the idea that he joined several other scientists in starting a nonprofit, New Harvest, to advance the technology. One of these scientists, Henk Haagsman, Professor of Meat Science at Utrecht University, received a grant from the Dutch government to produce cultured meat, as part of a national initiative to reduce the environmental impact of food production."

Added implication: "Writing in this month’s Physics World, British physicist Alan Calvert calculated that the animals eaten by people produce 21 percent of the carbon dioxide that can be attributed to human activity."

  10:32:02 PM  permalink  

CineMatrix:  Neat simple system for audience participation in synthetic environments or games or polls.  Examples abound.  10:07:21 PM  permalink  

WHO chief won't push for generic bird flu drug: "Speaking at a conference of health ministers and experts from more than 20 countries, Director-General Lee Jong-wook said WHO wouldn't pressure Swiss-based Roche Holding AG to relinquish its patent on oseltamivir. Sold under the brand name Tamiflu, it is the only treatment so far proven effective against bird flu in humans.

Last month, Roche announced it would donate 3 million treatment courses of Tamiflu to a WHO-managed stockpile. .. "When a company is doing its part, it (pushing for a generic option) is not a good incentive, encouragement (for the company) to do more," Lee told The Associated Press. ..  "We are very keen to see generic versions of this anti-viral drug available, but we will not pressure Roche to do so (relinquish its patent)," said Peter Cordingley, a WHO spokesman. ..

Bird flu has claimed 63 lives in Asia – mostly in Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia – and ravaged the region's poultry stocks. Health officials in parts of Russia and Kazakhstan are also monitoring its spread. Most human cases have been traced to direct contact with infected birds, but Lee said it was "just a matter of time" before the virus mutates into a form that is transmissible between humans, possibly killing millions of people. "It will come," Lee said. "All the conditions are there." "

  12:10:59 PM  permalink  

daily link  Friday, September 09, 2005

Energy Solutions Toolkit for ICT:  USAID interactive website for design of ICT's with off-grid power sources.  11:14:29 AM  permalink  

daily link  Thursday, September 08, 2005

PHEVs cut greenhouse gases more:  PHEVs substitute grid electric power for gasoline.  Most grid power comes from burning fossil fuels.  Still, it's more efficient to make the power and deliver it via battery than to burn it in the car, resulting in fewer CO2 emissions.  Joe Romm, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at the US DoE under Clinton does the numbers.  His calculations start with 12,000 miles per year, resulting in 11,000 pounds CO2 from an average new car, 6,000 pounds from a Prius, and 3,900 pounds from a Prius running on grid power alone.   "So running your E-hybrid on the U.S. grid is 35% better than running a Prius on gasoline and 65% better than an average car. .. In California, with its cleaner grid, you'd have under 2,000 pounds emissions from a plug-in Prius. And, of course, people can choose to purchase 100% renewable power.  The nice thing about plug ins is that it gives people a fuel choice, and everyone will choose electricity since even in California, the per-mile cost of electricity is under one half that of gasoline."  More references are on the Calcars FAQ #3, including a presentation from EPRI.   (The suggestion is made that off-hours electric use is even better: "An Argonne researcher reached consensus with [others in] July 2002 that plug-in HEVs using nighttime power reduce greenhouse gases by 46% to 61%."

  4:30:16 PM  permalink  

Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles in Austin: "Under the direction of the Austin City Council, Austin Energy is developing a forward-thinking PHEV strategy. "  The reasons and next steps are online.  11:56:10 AM  permalink  

How the Wall Street Journal and Rep. Barton celebrated a global-warming skeptic: How the mainstream media is easily corrupted by ideology and well-funded lobbyists.  11:42:30 AM  permalink  

daily link  Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Calcars inspires EDrive for PHEVs: In May 2005, EnergyCS and Clean-Tech unveiled EDrive, LLC, their new company for Prius retrofits.  They aim for sales of aftermarket conversion kits for Prius with higher capacity lithium batteries with up to 35 miles of drive time, for early 2006.  This article gives the history of how Calcars helped inspire their formation, and what may happen next.  Useful articles:

  10:51:39 PM  permalink  

More attention to flexible-fuel PHEV:  Even George P. Shultz and R. James Woolsey are on the bandwagon.  (June 2005): "We propose in this paper that the government vigorously encourage and support at least six technologies: two types of alternative fuels that are beginning to come into the market (cellulosic ethanol and biodiesel derived from a wide range of waste streams), two types of fuel efficient vehicles that are now being sold to the public in some volume (hybrid gasoline-electric and modern clean diesels), and one vehicle construction technique, the use of manufactured carbon-carbon composites, that is now being used for aircraft and racing cars and is quite promising as a way of reducing vehicle weight and fuel requirements while improving safety.

The sixth technology, battery improvement to permit "plug-in" hybrid vehicles, will require some development — although nothing like the years that will be required for hydrogen fuel cells. It holds, however, remarkable promise. Improving batteries to permit them to be given an added charge when a hybrid is garaged, ordinarily at night, can substantially improve mileage, because it can permit hybrids to use battery power alone for the first 10-30 miles. Since a great many trips fall within this range this can improve the mileage of a hybrid vehicle from, say, 50 mpg to over 100 mpg (of oil products). Also, since the average residential electricity cost is 8.5 cents/kwh (and in many areas, off-peak nighttime cost is 2-4 cents/kwh) this means that much of a plug-in hybrid's travel would be on the equivalent of 50 cent/gallon gasoline (or, off-peak, on the equivalent of 12-25 cent/gallon gasoline).

A plug-in hybrid averaging 125 mpg, if its fuel tank contains 85 per cent cellulosic ethanol, would be obtaining about 500 mpg. If it were constructed from carbon composites the mileage could double, and, if it were a diesel and powered by biodiesel derived from waste, it would be using no oil products at all. .. What are we waiting for?"

  10:24:22 PM  permalink  

The Suicide Solution: Christopher Dickey compares epidemics of suicide in different cultures, applied to today's terrorists.  "In “Dying to Win,” Pape concludes that  “suicide terrorism is mainly a response to foreign occupation.” Whether the people blowing themselves up are Palestinians, Chechens, Kashmiris, Tamil Tigers, or for that matter Japanese kamikazes, they are part of nationalist struggles, he says, and “they see themselves as sacrificing their lives for the nation’s good”..” Pape is a professor of political science at the University of Chicago, and he holds on to this essentially political explanation even when it has to be stretched a bit. Did the problem of occupation loom large in the lives of the young British-raised Pakistanis and East Africans who attacked public transport in London last July? Where did occupation figure in the minds of the highly educated men from Egypt, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia who carried out the 9/11 attacks against the United States?  ..  Al Qaeda propaganda tells them that the ummah,  the global nation of all Muslims, is under attack. ..  But that perception is not new—and suicide bombings on this scale are. ..

“Once a specific form of suicide takes place, it becomes part of the thinking and, if you will, the repertoire of people who can identify with that person who killed himself,” says the Dutch researcher René Diekstra, now at Holland’s Roosevelt Academy. “We know that what we call ‘suicide contagion’ is particularly prevalent in the late teens and early adult age. There is a search for identity, and for heroism.” These are exactly the themes the suicide organizers exploit. ..

Over the long run, Diekstra argues, Muslim societies will have to change. Islam will have to reaffirm its traditional values to resist the romance of martyrdom that more and more young people find attractive. New role models for young Muslims will have to be found, publicized, and revered. But the first step in any such process, as Pape argues, is to end foreign occupations wherever possible..

In the 1980s you had some six million Palestinians and Lebanese under Israeli occupation. Now some 20 million Iraqis (especially the 5 million Sunni Arabs) feel themselves under U.S. occupation—plus 18 million Saudis and some 2 million Kuwaitis who may see themselves as threatened by foreign troops in their neighborhood. “If we ever decide to invade Iran,” says Pape, “we’re going to discover that 70 million people can provide a lot more suicide bombers.” To stop the spread of the suicide disease, in other words, we have to stop the spread of the occupation disease."

  9:38:49 AM  permalink  

IBM open source rHype:  Back in Feb 05, IBM released an open source (GPL) virtualization engine called rHype, for 'research hypervisor'. (Updates are posted through July 05).   It is a paravirtualizer, so most O/S need modification before running.  It runs on several hardware platforms (Power, Sony Cell, x86), and has emulators for others (Mambo, QEMU).  "In addition to the rHype project, IBM has a commercial hypervisor running on machines that use its Power processors. Because rHype uses the same interfaces as the commercial hypervisor, Linux doesn't have to be modified to run on an rHype-Power foundation. With rHype on x86 chips, Linux must be modified to work. "  rHype is expected to help Xen authors advance their platform.  Charles King, principal analyst of Pund-IT Research, notes a trend I'm watching:  "Juggling numerous tasks has long been a useful ability for corporate computing centers. Now such abilities are increasingly useful at home as computer networks get more complex and useful, King said.   "It's fascinating to me that something that's been seen as a benefit for enterprise data centers is percolating its way down into the set-top box," King said. "  8:48:23 AM  permalink  

daily link  Saturday, September 03, 2005

Catastrophic success: "Wolfowitz is the Mr. Magoo of American foreign policy. Like the myopic cartoon character, Wolfowitz stumbles onward blindly and serenely, leaving wreckage and confusion behind. .. The problem with Paul Wolfowitz isn't that he's an evil genius -- it's that he has been consistently wrong about foreign policy for 30 years."  Many details.  5:35:32 PM  permalink  

Predictions of the New Orlease flood: Quoting Time magazine in 2000, NPR in 2002, and other sources.  2:01:41 PM  permalink  

daily link  Friday, September 02, 2005

In the search for new energy, China rides the wind: "China has made big investments in petroleum production in countries as far-flung as Sudan and Venezuela. But at home, where petroleum is growing scarce and overdependence on coal chokes the air of major cities - and killed 6,009 miners last year - the Chinese government is moving just as aggressively to develop alternative energy supplies..
By 2020, starting from a minuscule base that it has established only recently, China expects to supply 10 percent of its needs from so-called renewable energy sources, including wind, solar energy and small hydroelectric dams. .. So far, wind power is making the most impressive strides ..

"We have huge goals for wind power development," said Wang Zhongying, director of China's Center for Renewable Energy Development. "By 2010, we plan to reach 4,000 megawatts, and by 2020 we expect to reach 20,000 megawatts, or 20 gigawatts." If anything, Wang said, these targets are too conservative, and may be easily surpassed.  The biggest limitations, he said, were not in China's wind-power potential, or in its generating technology, but rather in the country's antiquated power grid ..

The outcome has been a real boom among suppliers of wind power equipment. "We're expecting the sector to grow 50 to 75 percent a year between now and 2020," said Jens Olsen, the chief representative of Vestas, a Danish turbine manufacturer that is the leading equipment supplier in China."

  8:14:41 PM  permalink  

VoiceStick: Interesting package of VOIP software on a USB device, allowing calling from any PC with broadband and a USB port.  8:41:00 AM  permalink  

daily link  Thursday, September 01, 2005

Current Alternative Fuel Vehicle Models: DoE guide to hybrid, CNG, and ethanol vehicles, including information on prior year models and links to used car sales.  Many flexible fuel vehicles taking any mix of gas an ethanol up to 85% ("FFV E85"), at no extra cost:  22 sedans, wagons, coupes, and and light trucks from Ford, GM, Chrysler, Mercedes and Nissan.  Industrial vehicles, including buses, garbage trucks, and construction vehicles also listed.  Biodiesel covered separately: "Fleets looking to comply with the Energy Policy Act of 1992 (EPAct) must use fuel blends that contain at least 20% biodiesel.  .. Using biodiesel blends requires little or no engine modification .. In older vehicles, high-percentage blends of biodiesel (greater than 20%) can affect fuel hoses and pump seals made from certain elastomers. The effect is lessened with lower percentage blends. Elastomers (found in hoses and gaskets) that are biodiesel-compatible are required for use with B100 and high-percentage biodiesel blends. "  8:45:30 AM  permalink  

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