Updated: 5/16/2006; 12:38:55 PM.

Ken Novak's Weblog
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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  

 

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Copyright 2006 © Ken Novak.
Last update: 5/16/2006; 12:38:55 PM.