David Kirkpatrick

September 8, 2010

The latest on the White House proposed tax cuts and infrastructure spending

Filed under: Business, Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:20 pm

Can Obama pull off these fiscal moves this year? Opinions are a mixed bag, but the quick answer is probably not.

From the link:

Tax experts and economists offered mixed reviews about the feasibility of the Obama administration’s attempt to pass additional tax cuts now with the legislative year winding down, even as the president declined Sept. 3 to specify what proposals his administration will advance.

On Aug. 30, the president announced that he will propose a series of targeted tax cuts and infrastructure investments in the coming days and weeks, some of which will be new.

“I will be addressing a broader package of ideas next week,” the president told reporters at the White House Sept. 3. “We are confident that we are moving in the right direction, but we want to keep this recovery moving stronger and accelerate the job growth that’s needed so desperately all across the country.”

Singularity University to announce session breakthroughs September 13

Via KurzweilAI.net — I blogged about one of the breakthroughs yesterday, and the university leader’s are going to announce the entire group next Monday.

From the first link:

Singularity University to Unveil Breakthrough Solutions for ‘Global Grand Challenges’ at Sept. 13 Briefing

September 8, 2010 by Editor

This summer, 80 students from 35 nations were challenged to apply innovations in exponentially advancing technologies to solve some of the world’s “grand challenges” with a focus on food, water, energy, upcycle, and space industries.

On Monday, September 13, at 9:30am PT/12:30pm ET, in a webinar briefing, Singularity University co-founders Dr. Ray Kurzweil, Dr. Peter H. Diamandis, and faculty head Dr. Dan Barry will unveil for the first time multiple solutions in each problem space, each aiming to impact a billion people within ten years.

A Q&A session will follow the briefing. The Briefing is open to media and the public, but space is limited. You can visit http://briefing.singularityu.org/ to register for the webinar briefing.

Singularity University (SU) is an interdisciplinary university whose mission is to assemble, educate and inspire a cadre of leaders who strive to understand and facilitate the development of exponentially advancing technologies in order to address humanity’s grand challenges. With the support of a broad range of leaders in academia, business and government, SU hopes to stimulate groundbreaking, disruptive thinking and solutions aimed at solving some of the planet’s most pressing challenges. SU is based at the NASA Ames campus in Silicon Valley. For more information, go to www.singularityu.org and follow SU on Twitter and Facebook.

September 7, 2010

Low cost desalination for potable water

Via KurzweilAI.net — A theoretical device from the recently concluded Singularity University. This sounds like a fresh water solution with real promise.

From the first link:

Our approach leverages advances in 3 exponentially growing fields: synthetic biology, nanotechnology, and solar energy.  Synthetic biology is a factor because synthetic molecules are currently being developed that can create ionic bonds with sodium and chloride molecules, enabling fresh water to pass through a nanofilter using only the pressure of the water above the pipe.

Nanotechnology is relevant for reverse osmosis, because using thinner filter further reduces the amount of pressure required to separate fresh water from salt water. A filtration cube measuring 165mm (6.5 inches) per side could produce 100,000 gallons of purified water per day at 1 psi. Finally, as advances in solar energy improve the efficiency of  photovoltaics, the throughput of solar pumps will increase significantly, enabling more efficient movement and storage of fresh water.

Although the individual components described above have not advanced to a point where the solution is possible at present, we were able to speak with leading experts in each of these areas as to the timeline for these capabilities to be realized.

Synthetic molecules capable of bonding with sodium and chloride molecules have already been created, but have not yet been converted to an appropriate form for storage, such as a cartridge. This is expected to occur in the next 2-3 years. Filters are currently in the 10-15nm range, and are expected to reach 1nm over the next 3-5 years. As with the synthetic molecules, 1nm tubes have been built; just not assembled into a filter at this point. Photovoltaics are currently approximately 12% efficient, but it is anticipated that 20% efficiency is achievable in the next 5 years.

A possible implementation of our Naishio solution. The pressure from the water volume is sufficient to propel fresh water across the membrane (A), and photovoltaics (D) generate all the energy needed to pump water from the repository (C) to the water tank and circulator (E). Sensors (B) communicate between the solar pump and membrane to regulate the water level and ensure it doesn’t become contaminated. (Image: Sarah Jane Pell).

Happy second birthday, Chrome!

Filed under: Business, et.al., Technology — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:41 pm

Well, belated birthday since last Thursday marked the second anniversary of Chrome’s release. Count me among the very satisfied users of Google’s browser war entry.

From the link:

The first beta of Google Chrome made its debut on September 2, 2008, and most reviewers instantly lauded its streamlined, minimalistic design. PCWorld blogger J.R. Raphael noted, “Calling the design of Chrome’s interface streamlined is an understatement. The program barely looks like a program, and the vast majority of your screen space is devoted to the site you’re visiting — with no buttons or logos hogging space.”

Google’s hallmark is a clean, uncluttered interface — remember what search engines looked like before Google came along? — that many of its search rivals have tried to emulate. Since the launch of Chrome, Google’s browser rivals have tried to copy its minimalistic look, with varying degrees of success. Whether they succeed or not, I applaud the effort — and I thank Chrome for reminding others that we’re browsing the Web in order to look at a Web site, not to look at a browser.

Net neutrality and the FCC …

… a lot of talk (a whole lot of talk) and no action.

“Do Not Track” movement gaining traction in DC

“Do Not Track” would be akin to the “Do Not Call” list opt-out consumer registry to prevent unsolicited sales pitches and other calls, and right now looks to have a legitimate shot at reaching the proposed legislation level, if not further. The privacy advocacy, Consumer Watchdog, is running an ad in Times Square (on a 540-square foot digital billboard no less) mocking Google’s CEO Erik Schmidt as a snooping ice cream man.

Now Schmidt (and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg) have made some very boneheaded public statements about online privacy — and I’m a huge advocate of online privacy — but the reality is some level of tracking is necessary to keep the internet rolling along in its current fashion. Take away the legitimate revenue from data mining web user’s habits and all of a sudden you’ll be running into paywall after paywall of premium content. And on top of that, the technology to track web usage wouldn’t be going anywhere, it would just only be utilized by criminals or entities looking to circumvent anti tracking regulations.

Because of Schmidt and Zuckerberg’s public idiocy on online privacy, and actual privacy gaffes like Facebook’s well-publicized multiple self-inflicted wounds, the general public is much more aware of exactly how tracked they are, and even if they don’t understand exactly how that data is used, they don’t like it. Consumer Watchdog’s commissioned poll (grain of salt here due to the poll’s source) found 80 percent of the public supporting a “Do Not Track” registry. That is a high number.

So now that the online privacy debate has gone mainstream, look for likely legislation to his Washington sometime soon. And if all comes to pass, the Federal Trade Commission may get its say in this process. Is that what anyone really wants? I doubt it.

From the link:

Do Not Track legislation would be similar to the national Do Not Call registry, allowing consumers to opt out of having their web activities tracked for advertising purposes. It is a concept that has gained surprising momentum -  surprising, given the gridlock that otherwise exists on Capitol Hill – and could well be proposed as legislation in the upcoming session. House Energy and Commerce Communications Subcommittee ChairmanRick Boucher, D-Va., and Energy and Commerce Consumer Protection Subcommittee ChairmanBobby Rush, D-Ill., are working on privacy legislation that they hope to have ready for for the next Congress. The Do Not Call list would likely be included.

Then there is the Federal Trade Commission. FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz told a Senate panel that the commission is exploring the idea as well (via Nextgov). The opt-out process could be run by the FTC or some private sector entity, he suggested.

September 5, 2010

Papers are going somewhere

Filed under: Business, Media, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:16 pm

And that somewhere is a path that leads to fewer pages, fewer ads and much lower revenue. Most dailies have essentially priced themselves into a pure luxury good for people who just like the smell of the ink and the feel of the newsprint under finger (I admit to falling into that category even though I no loner take a daily paper.)

Rishad Tobaccowala writes at Adweek on the future of the newspaper industry in a piece titled, “Papers Aren’t Going Anywhere,” and sees a relatively bright future, particularly in serving the local community. The problem with the article is it’s really about the reinvention of traditional print media into something completely different. Yes, if the newspaper industry can adapt to a brand new world, significantly alter business models and realize they don’t stand alone as arbiters of what news their market gets to consume then yeah, the newspaper industry might pull out of the current death spiral. I wouldn’t bet on it, though.

Here’s the four changes Tobaccowala’s sees as necessary for newspapers:

Having spent some time with senior and junior personnel across the newspaper industry, I know they know the perils they face. Many are making the difficult decisions and changes necessary to thrive. These changes are taking places in the following areas:

1. Culture: The newspaper industry needs to be reinvigorated. The people who created the cash cow of the paper package need help to create challenger products that will supplement and even cannibalize the newspaper. In many papers a cultural and organizational soap opera is occurring. I bet on the next generation to win since nothing trumps survival.

2. Technology: Organizations need to elevate the role of technology and technology partnerships to board-level status. The future will be about how to use technology to curate, combine and aid discovery of articles to relevant audiences at scale. This will require world-class technology smarts.

3. Partnering: In addition to technology partnerships, newspapers need to find ways to continue to embrace other voices into their bundle of products and services. These include the blogging community, the Yelps of the world and all the people outside the industry who are trying to reinvent the industry. We are living in a world of links and connections and, oddly, to be more competitive thinking synergistically is better than thinking competitively

4. Focus: Each news organization has to decide what it makes, what it shares and what it borrows. Vertical integration may be fine for Apple, but doing all things is a no go for most other firms. Each newspaper needs to determine what it’s best at or what, with investment, it could be best at. Share and borrow the rest.

September 3, 2010

Christina Romer on solving the current level of unemployment

Short version? Cut taxes and crank up spending to give the economy a boost.

Balancing national security and privacy on the internet

An interesting breakdown on the current state of online privacy versus national security.

From the link:

In the wake of revelations that the US military network was compromised in 2008, and that US digital interests are under a relative constant threat of attack, the Pentagon is establishing new cyber security initiatives to protect the Internet. The Pentagon strategy–which is part digital NATO, part digital civil defense, and part Big Brother–may ruffle some feathers and raise concerns that the US Internet is becoming a military police state.

The mission of the United States Department of Defense is to provide military forces needed to deter war and protect the security of the nation. The scope of that mission includes emerging threats and the need to deter cyber war and protect the digital security of the nation as well. To fulfill that mission in an increasingly connected world, and with a rising threat of digital attack, the Pentagon wants to expand its sphere of influence.

This really is a tough issue. Certainly you want the nation to be safe, but at the same time the internet is largely a borderless “pseudo-nation” and clamping down too hard — not unlike the great firewall of China — can stifle much of what makes the net great. No easy answers here, but dramatically increasing the power of the government — particularly the military — over the private sector is not an acceptable solution.

September 2, 2010

William Gibson on Google

Filed under: Business, Media, Technology — Tags: , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 11:24 am

William Gibson is one of my favorite authors — reading Neuromancer when it came out was a life-changer for me in terms of literature, science fiction and general outlook — and he has an interesting op-ed at the New York Times on the global reach of Google. He describes the relationship between the behemoth tech company and its users this way, “We are part of a post-geographical, post-national super-state.” And adds, “We’re citizens, but without rights.”

From the third link:

We have yet to take Google’s measure. We’ve seen nothing like it before, and we already perceive much of our world through it. We would all very much like to be sagely and reliably advised by our own private genie; we would like the genie to make the world more transparent, more easily navigable. Google does that for us: it makes everything in the world accessible to everyone, and everyone accessible to the world. But we see everyone looking in, and blame Google.

Google is not ours. Which feels confusing, because we are its unpaid content-providers, in one way or another. We generate product for Google, our every search a minuscule contribution. Google is made of us, a sort of coral reef of human minds and their products. And still we balk at Mr. Schmidt’s claim that we want Google to tell us what to do next. Is he saying that when we search for dinner recommendations, Google might recommend a movie instead? If our genie recommended the movie, I imagine we’d go, intrigued. If Google did that, I imagine, we’d bridle, then begin our next search.

Meet the new boss …

Filed under: Business, et.al., Technology — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 10:14 am

… not even close to same as the old boss (with apologies to the Who.)

Get ready to bow down to your robotic overlord supervisor.

From the link:

Remember the Segway? It never quite revolutionized transportation, but a similar mobility technology now underpins this tele presence robot, called Anybot. It glides on two wheels around an office or factory to let workers videoconference with the boss, who can control the contraption from a remote keyboard.

To my mind it looks more like a cop from a 80s-era science fiction movie more than anything:

Product: Anybot

Cost: $15,000

Availability: November

Source: www.anybots.com

Company: Anybots

Food for not so easy thought

Everyone thought the biggest threat from China was the sheer volume of Treasuries held by that nation and the potential stranglehold it has over the U.S. economy. Realistically that has never been a real issue because as such a heavy investor in the U.S. economy, China has a vested interest in our financial sector remaining strong.

Now squeezing us on manufacturing vital elements of computing and electronics by taking complete control over rare earth metals is a different angle of attack altogether. You know the U.S. government is taking this very seriously when it has both the energy department and the DoD on the job.

The release:

China’s monopoly on 17 key elements sets stage for supply crisis

China’s monopoly on the global supply of elements critical for production of computer hard disc drives, hybrid-electric cars, military weapons, and other key products — and its increasingly strict limits on exports — is setting the stage for a crisis in the United States. That’s the topic of the cover story of Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), ACS’ weekly newsmagazine.

C&EN Senior Editor Mitch Jacoby and Contributing Editor Jessie Jiang explain that the situation involves a family of chemical elements that may soon start to live up to their name, the “rare earths.” China has virtually cornered the global market on them, and produces most of the world’s supply. Since 2005, China has been raising prices and restricting exports, most recently in 2010, fostering a potential supply crisis in the U.S.

The article describes how the U.S. is now responding to this emerging crisis. To boost supplies, for instance, plans are being developed to resume production at the largest U.S. rare-earth mine — Mountain Pass in southern California — which has been dormant since 2002. The U.S. Department of Energy and the Department of Defense are among the government agencies grappling with the problem.

###

ARTICLE FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE “Securing the Supply of Rare Earths”

This story is available at http://pubs.acs.org/cen/coverstory/88/8835cover.html

Improvements in LED lighting coming?

Looks pretty promising. I haven’t blogged about alternative lighting in a while, but I remain very fascinated about the potential for LED lighting. I have two LED bulbs right now, and as cool as they are (figuratively and literally) they suffer from the main complaints against LEDs right now — they are quite dim (albeitly by design in these particular bulb’s case) and they are very unidirectional and suitable only for spot lighting applications.

Here’s the latest news in LEDs and looks to be quite ambitious and very interesting. I’m looking forward to being able to replace all my residential lighting with crazy long-lasting and cheap-to-run LEDs.

From the link:

Researchers from the Nichia Corporation in Tokushima, Japan, have set an ambitious goal: to develop a white LED that can replace every interior and exterior light bulb currently used in homes and offices. The properties of their latest white LED – a luminous flux of 1913 lumens and a luminous efficacy of 135 lumens per watt at 1 amp – enable it to emit more light than a typical 20-watt fluorescent bulb, as well as more light for a given amount of power. With these improvements, the researchers say that the new LED can replace traditional fluorescent bulbs for all general lighting applications, and also be used for automobile headlights and LCD backlighting.

The history of luminous efficacy in different types of lighting shows the rapid improvements in white LEDs. The years in which the white light sources were developed are also shown. Credit: Yukio Narukawa, et al.

September 1, 2010

More memory news …

… to join this earlier post from today on memristor storage, this one on silicon nanocrystals and 3D storage.

From the second link, the release:

Silicon oxide circuits break barrier

Nanocrystal conductors could lead to massive, robust 3-D storage

Rice University scientists have created the first two-terminal memory chips that use only silicon, one of the most common substances on the planet, in a way that should be easily adaptable to nanoelectronic manufacturing techniques and promises to extend the limits of miniaturization subject to Moore’s Law.

Last year, researchers in the lab of Rice Professor James Tour showed how electrical current could repeatedly break and reconnect 10-nanometer strips of graphite, a form of carbon, to create a robust, reliable memory “bit.” At the time, they didn’t fully understand why it worked so well.

Now, they do. A new collaboration by the Rice labs of professors Tour, Douglas Natelson and Lin Zhong proved the circuit doesn’t need the carbon at all.

Jun Yao, a graduate student in Tour’s lab and primary author of the paper to appear in the online edition of Nano Letters, confirmed his breakthrough idea when he sandwiched a layer of silicon oxide, an insulator, between semiconducting sheets of polycrystalline silicon that served as the top and bottom electrodes.

Applying a charge to the electrodes created a conductive pathway by stripping oxygen atoms from the silicon oxide and forming a chain of nano-sized silicon crystals. Once formed, the chain can be repeatedly broken and reconnected by applying a pulse of varying voltage.

The nanocrystal wires are as small as 5 nanometers (billionths of a meter) wide, far smaller than circuitry in even the most advanced computers and electronic devices.

“The beauty of it is its simplicity,” said Tour, Rice’s T.T. and W.F. Chao Chair in Chemistry as well as a professor of mechanical engineering and materials science and of computer science. That, he said, will be key to the technology’s scalability. Silicon oxide switches or memory locations require only two terminals, not three (as in flash memory), because the physical process doesn’t require the device to hold a charge.

It also means layers of silicon-oxide memory can be stacked in tiny but capacious three-dimensional arrays. “I’ve been told by industry that if you’re not in the 3-D memory business in four years, you’re not going to be in the memory business. This is perfectly suited for that,” Tour said.

Silicon-oxide memories are compatible with conventional transistor manufacturing technology, said Tour, who recently attended a workshop by the National Science Foundation and IBM on breaking the barriers to Moore’s Law, which states the number of devices on a circuit doubles every 18 to 24 months.

“Manufacturers feel they can get pathways down to 10 nanometers. Flash memory is going to hit a brick wall at about 20 nanometers. But how do we get beyond that? Well, our technique is perfectly suited for sub-10-nanometer circuits,” he said.

Austin tech design company PrivaTran is already bench testing a silicon-oxide chip with 1,000 memory elements built in collaboration with the Tour lab. “We’re real excited about where the data is going here,” said PrivaTran CEO Glenn Mortland, who is using the technology in several projects supported by the Army Research Office, National Science Foundation, Air Force Office of Scientific Research, and the Navy Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer programs.

“Our original customer funding was geared toward more high-density memories,” Mortland said. “That’s where most of the paying customers see this going. I think, along the way, there will be side applications in various nonvolatile configurations.”

Yao had a hard time convincing his colleagues that silicon oxide alone could make a circuit. “Other group members didn’t believe him,” said Tour, who added that nobody recognized silicon oxide’s potential, even though it’s “the most-studied material in human history.”

“Most people, when they saw this effect, would say, ‘Oh, we had silicon-oxide breakdown,’ and they throw it out,” he said. “It was just sitting there waiting to be exploited.”

In other words, what used to be a bug turned out to be a feature.

Yao went to the mat for his idea. He first substituted a variety of materials for graphite and found none of them changed the circuit’s performance. Then he dropped the carbon and metal entirely and sandwiched silicon oxide between silicon terminals. It worked.

“It was a really difficult time for me, because people didn’t believe it,” Yao said. Finally, as a proof of concept, he cut a carbon nanotube to localize the switching site, sliced out a very thin piece of silicon oxide by focused ion beam and identified a nanoscale silicon pathway under a transmission electron microscope.

“This is research,” Yao said. “If you do something and everyone nods their heads, then it’s probably not that big. But if you do something and everyone shakes their heads, then you prove it, it could be big.

“It doesn’t matter how many people don’t believe it. What matters is whether it’s true or not.”

Silicon-oxide circuits carry all the benefits of the previously reported graphite device. They feature high on-off ratios, excellent endurance and fast switching (below 100 nanoseconds).

They will also be resistant to radiation, which should make them suitable for military and NASA applications. “It’s clear there are lots of radiation-hardened uses for this technology,” Mortland said.

Silicon oxide also works in reprogrammable gate arrays being built by NuPGA, a company formed last year through collaborative patents with Rice University. NuPGA’s devices will assist in the design of computer circuitry based on vertical arrays of silicon oxide embedded in “vias,” the holes in integrated circuits that connect layers of circuitry. Such rewritable gate arrays could drastically cut the cost of designing complex electronic devices.

###

Zhengzong Sun, a graduate student in Tour’s lab, was co-author of the paper with Yao; Tour; Natelson, a Rice professor of physics and astronomy; and Zhong, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering.

The David and Lucille Packard Foundation, the Texas Instruments Leadership University Fund, the National Science Foundation, PrivaTran and the Army Research Office SBIR supported the research.

Read the abstract here: http://pubs.acs.org/journal/nalefd

High-resolution images are available for download here:
https://stage.media.rice.edu/images/media/NewsRels/0830_F2.jpg
https://stage.media.rice.edu/images/media/NewsRels/0830_F2a.jpg
https://stage.media.rice.edu/images/media/NewsRels/0830_F2b.jpg
https://stage.media.rice.edu/images/media/NewsRels/0830_F2c.jpg
https://stage.media.rice.edu/images/media/NewsRels/0830_F2d.jpg

NOTE: The first image (F2) is a key to the other four.

CAPTION: A 1k silicon oxide memory has been assembled by Rice and a commercial partner as a proof-of-concept. Silicon nanowire forms when charge is pumped through the silicon oxide, creating a two-terminal resistive switch. (Images courtesy Jun Yao/Rice University)

(Note: I recommend hitting the link for the first image — 0830_F2.jpg. It’s too big to run in this blog full-size, but it’s a great illustration of the chip.)

The new EPA auto fuel economy label

With hybrids and electric cars becoming more commonplace, the old miles-per-gallon rating just doesn’t cut it for fuel efficiency comparison shopping. So in steps the Environmental Protection Agency with a brand new label. Not sure exactly how clear this is at first glance, but it does offer more than just MPG information.

From the link:

All new cars and light-duty trucks sold in the U.S. are required to have a label that displays fuel economy information that is designed to help consumers make easy and well-informed comparisons between vehicles. Most people recognize the current label (or “window sticker”) by the gas tank graphic and city and highway Miles Per Gallon (MPG) information. EPA has provided fuel economy estimates in City and Highway MPG values for more than 30 years (see how fuel economy has changed).

EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) are updating this label to provide consumers with simple, straightforward energy and environmental comparisons across all vehicles types, including electric vehicles (EV), plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV), and conventional gasoline/diesel vehicles. The agencies are incorporating new information, such as ratings on fuel economy, greenhouse gas emissions, and other air pollutants, onto the label as required by the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007.

The agencies are proposing two different label designs (see right) and are eager to gather public input. Specifically, which design, or design features, would best help you compare the fuel economy, fuel costs, and environmental impacts of different vehicles.  Submit a comment on the proposed labels.

For more information on the proposed fuel economy label redesign, please see the Proposed Rule, the proposed labels, and related documents.

And all that info isn’t enough, here’s the EPA’s release on the new labels.

(Hat tip — Potential Energy blog at Technology Review)

Memristor storage coming in 2013

Filed under: Business, Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 9:48 am

Of course, we’ll have to see if this tech is still state-of-the-art three years down the road.

From the link:

An electronic component that offers a new way to squeeze more data into computers and portable gadgets is set to go into production in just a couple of years. Hewlett-Packard announced today that it has entered an agreement with the Korean electronics manufacturer Hynix Semiconductor to make the components, called “memristors,” starting in 2013. Storage devices made of memristors will allow PCs, cellphones, and servers to store more and switch on instantly.

Making memories: This colorized atomic-force microscopy image shows 17 memristors. The circuit elements, shown in green, are formed at the crossroads of metal nanowires.
Credit: StanWilliams, HP Labs

Memristors are nanoscale electronic switches that have a variable resistance, and can retain their resistance even when the power is switched off. This makes them similar to the transistors used to store data in flash memory. But memristors are considerably smaller–as small as three nanometers. In contrast, manufacturers are experimenting with flash memory components that are 20 nanometers in size.

“The goal is to be at least double whatever flash memory is in three years–we know we’ll beat flash in speed, power, and endurance, and we want to beat it in density, too,” says Stanley Williams, a senior fellow at HP who has been developing memristors in his lab for about five years.

August 31, 2010

Bank lending important to small business

Filed under: Business — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:37 pm

Much more important than expected in terms of financing small business. The total credit freeze when the financial crisis hit hurt everyone, but the ongoing credit crunch on small businesses and entrepreneurs may be a fairly big piece of the slow economic recovery puzzle.

From the link:

Small businesses are more sensitive to the contraction of bank lending than previously thought, and the conventional wisdom about how small businesses finance themselves may be hogwash, according to a new working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research.

The paper, “The Capital Structure Decisions of New Firms,” found that newly created firms rely heavily on “outside” debt financing, such as owner-backed loans, business bank loans, and business credit lines. The average amount of bank financing is seven times greater than the average amount of
“insider”-financed debt — money from family members and personal networks of the owner. Those groups were previously thought to be the primary providers of fuel for start-ups.

RIP — Oxford English Dictionary, print edition

Filed under: Business, et.al., Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:54 pm

This rest-in-peace notice is a bit premature because the Oxford University Press hasn’t officially announced the demise of the printed OED, but it does heavily prognosticate by the time the third edition is ready for print it’s likely to be an online-only affair. I still sort of regret passing up buying a reduced price second edition of the OED back a few years ago.

From the link:

By the time the lexicographers behind the century-old Oxford English Dictionary finish revising and updating its third edition — a gargantuan task that will take a decade or more — publishers doubt there will be a market for the printed form.

“At present we are experiencing increasing demand for the online product,” a statement from the publisher said. “However, a print version will certainly be considered if there is sufficient demand at the time of publication.”

Nigel Portwood, chief executive of Oxford University Press, told The Sunday Times in an interview he didn’t think the newest edition will be printed. “The print dictionary market is just disappearing. It is falling away by tens of percent a year,” he said.

Google and Arcade Fire showcase HTML5

Filed under: Arts, Business, Media, Technology — Tags: , , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 10:10 am

Via KurzweilAI.net — The link down there with “Chrome Experiment” as an anchor text is broken, try this instead to check out the interactive video.

From the first  link:

Google Shows Off Chrome, HTML5 With Interactive Music “Experience”

August 31, 2010

Source: ReadWriteWeb, Aug 30, 2010

Google has released its latest “Chrome Experiment” in the form of a music video “experience” that shows off the power of tools like HTML5 and Google products like Chrome, Maps and Street View, using real-time graphics rendering and real-world imagery pulled from Google Maps satellite and Street View imagery from your own home town.

[+]

Opens up an exciting new media form. Highly recommended. – Ed.

Read original article

August 30, 2010

Job market, other indicators weak — double dip recession on the horizon?

Looks like not if the Fed can help it. This is likely to be a week full of not so good economic news, and if that scenario comes to pass there’ll be a lot of talk about a “double dip” recession.  And make no mistake, the talk will be justified. I’m not sure what fiscal tools Bernanke has left in the box, but there seems to be agreement that he’ll go more chainsaw and less scalpel to avoid a double-dipper. I guess we’ll see …

From the link:

With little support in Congress for a renewed burst of government spending, the burden of rescuing a lagging recovery falls upon the nation’s central bank. The Fed already has kept its benchmark lending rate near zero for almost two years, and has tried to further loosen credit via unusual asset purchases, known as “quantitative easing.” In a speech Friday, Bernanke said the Fed would take additional “unconventional measures if it proves necessary, especially if the outlook were to deteriorate significantly.”

He told an audience of central bankers in Jackson Hole, Wyo., that the Fed could spur growth by:

•Expanding its $2 trillion balance sheet with additional purchases of long-term securities.

•Announcing plans to keep its benchmark interest rate near zero for “a longer period than is currently priced into the markets.”

•Or reducing the minuscule interest banks earn on deposits with the central bank.

Bernanke said the Fed must balance the benefits of employing unconventional monetary policy tools against their costs. Overly aggressive action could raise doubts that the Fed would be able to unwind its extraordinary assistance once the economy recovers.

Public relations no-nos — impersonating consumers

PR firm Reverb Communications is in hot water with the Federal Trade Commission for creating video game reviews at Apple’s iTunes store by posing as unbiased consumers, instead of the paid professional flacks they were. Now there is a somewhat fine line out there in the online world between fandom, fannish shilling and paid shilling, and the FTC frowns highly on the last item in that list if it’s undisclosed. Frowns in it so highly it even requires bloggers at any level of readership and popularity disclose a paid-for ad.

(Full disclosure: I occasionally run sponsored posts I’ve created for clients. Those posts beginning December 1, 2001, as per FTC regulations are clearly marked with a “sponsored” disclaimer. And to add a shameless ad to this aside, if you are interested in a sponsored post on this blog, hit the about page for contact information.)

And as a bit of advice to Reverb Comm., try to stay on right side of the FTC. It can make your life fairly unpleasant. Plus the bad PR your clients get hit with when shenanigans like this get exposed kill your viral efforts.

From the first link way up there in the first sentence:

US regulators have said a public relations firm has agreed to settle charges that it had employees pose as unbiased videogame buyers and post reviews at Apple’s online iTunes store.

The deal requires Reverb Communications and its owner, Tracie Snitker, to remove such potentially deceptive reviews and refrain from the practice, according to the .

“Companies, including public relations firms involved in online marketing need to abide by long-held principles of truth in advertising,” said FTC division of advertising practices director Mary Engle.

“Advertisers should not pass themselves off as ordinary consumers touting a product, and endorsers should make it clear when they have financial connections to sellers.”

August 29, 2010

The housing market continues to suffer

And the White House is prepping to announce new initiatives to keep homeowners in their houses and forestall a new spate of foreclosures. The real-world effects of this recession are still ongoing, regardless what direction any economic indicators may point, and the help Main Street is getting from DC feels like a trickle here, a trickle there. So much for the “summer of recovery.”

From the link:

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan revealed to CNN Friday that the Obama administration plans next week to unveil two new initiatives to deal with the crumbling housing market, and he left the door open to also reviving the expired $8,000 tax credit for first-time home buyers that had been propping up the industry.

“We’re going to be rolling out an FHA refinancing effort to help borrowers who are under water in their homes get above water,” Donovan said in an exclusive interview taped for CNN’s “State of the Union with Candy Crowley” on Sunday. “And second, we’re launching an emergency homeowners’ loan program for unemployed borrowers to be able to stay in their homes.”

The swift action being pushed by President Obama’s housing chief come in response to awful news in the housing industry this week, starting with Tuesday’s revelation that existing home sales hit their lowest level in over a decade, declining by over 27 percent during the month.

Update: this comes from today’s Playbook — brunch edition:

An administration official e-mails: “These are not new. He said ‘launching’ because they are previously introduced, but have not yet hit the market. The FHA short refi program was announced in March, and will launch in early September. The emergency homeowner emergency loan program, which was included in the Frank-Dodd bill (HUD put out in a release and conf. call two weeks ago), will be launched in October.”

August 26, 2010

Out of control taxation, New York State-style

Filed under: Business, Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 8:17 pm

There really isn’t anything to add to this Wall Street Journal story other than WTF?

From the link:

State tax officials, under orders from cash-strapped Albany to ramp up their audit and compliance efforts, have begun to enforce one of the more obscure distinctions within the state’s sales tax law.

In New York, the sale of whole bagels isn’t subject to sales tax. But the tax does apply to “sliced or prepared bagels (with cream cheese or other toppings),” according to the state Department of Taxation and Finance. And if the bagel is eaten in the store, even if it’s never been touched by a knife, it’s also taxed.

Makin’ phone calls with Gmail

Filed under: Business, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:58 am

Gmail gets deeper into telephony with the ability to make calls to landlines and cell phones.

From the link:

Google is shaping Gmail into the ultimate communications hub. Today, the companyannounced that United States users will be able to make and receive calls within Gmail, providing they install the company’s voice and video plug-in.

Users could already call and video chat with other Gmail users, but the new features allow them to call landlines and cellphones. Google says that calls to phones within the U.S. and Canada will be free for at least the rest of the year, and calls to many other countries will cost 2 cents a minute.

August 25, 2010

More economic gloom …

Filed under: Business — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:33 pm

… home sales at lowest point since 1995.

August 24, 2010

Fed must reveal details of bailout

Filed under: Business, Politics — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:38 pm

Bloomberg News won in court to require the Federal Reserve to disclose the nuts and bolts of the financial bailout when the U.S. Court of Appeals in New York turned down an appeal of Fed court loss in March. I’m with Bloomberg on this. Public money was used and there’s no conceivable reason why the public should be kept in the dark on the who’s and how muches went into the bailout. If some businesses (or the government) get embarrassed, so be it. And if financial institutions didn’t want make any business details public, they shouldn’t have taken any public money. That public thing ought to be a two-way street. Looks like the New York Appeals Court agrees.

From the link:

The full U.S. Court of Appeals in New York has refused to review a March decision by three of its judges requiring the Fed to release records of the $2 trillion in emergency loans it extended to banks and other institutions beginning in 2008.

From Bloomberg:

Unless the court stays its decision, the Fed will have seven days to disclose the documents. In the event of a stay, the central bank and the Clearing House Association LLC, an organization of 20 commercial banks that joined the Fed in defense of the lawsuit, will have 90 days to petition the Supreme Court to consider their appeal. The Clearing House has already said it will ask the high court to rule on the case.

A Fed spokesman said the central bank was “considering our options.”

Bloomberg sued the Fed in November 2008, arguing that the public has the right to know the names of the banks that borrowed from the agency, the amounts of the loans and what kind of collateral was posted.

This is where tablet e-readers can really shine

Filed under: Business, Media, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 11:39 am

Via KurzweilAI.net — Textbooks!

From the link:

Replacing a Pile of Textbooks With an iPad

August 24, 2010

Source: New York Times — Aug 23, 2010

A new company called Inkling hopes to break the standard textbook model and help textbooks enter the interactive age by letting students share and comment on the texts and interact with fellow students, using an iPad.

Other features include interactive graphics within a book and the ability to search text, change the size of the type, purchase individual chapters of books, highlight text for others to see, and take pop quizzes directly within the app.

Photo: Inkling

Read original article

August 23, 2010

Microsoft’s Arc Touch Mouse

Filed under: Business, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 10:11 pm

Here’s some photos of Microsoft’s latest mouse tech — the Arc Touch Mouse – from CIO.com:

Microsoft Arc Touch Mouse

Microsoft Arc Touch Mouse

Microsoft Arc Touch Mouse

Microsoft Arc Touch Mouse
(Photos are from WinFuture.de)

The death of print

Filed under: Business, Media, Technology — Tags: , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 11:57 am

Wired‘s Chris Anderson has revised his prediction on electronic versus print delivery of content. Two years ago he said ink-on-paper would be the main delivery mechanism for magazines.

From the link, here he is this year:

In light of these developments, I emailed Anderson to ask whether or not he’d like to revise his estimate for the death of print.

He said, perhaps not surprisingly, that he now believes that within a decade most reading will be done on e-readers and tablets.

“I still think that ten years from now we’ll still have lots of print magazines, along with lots of print books, and they will be more-or-less like they are now. What I’ve changed my mind about is what fraction of the market they will be. E-readers, from tablets to smart phones, have matured faster than I thought they would back in 2008.”

That predictions for the “death of print” changed so drastically in the span of just two years tells us something about where we are on the hype and/or adoption curve of e-readers and their ilk.

Which is to say: we are coming up on an inflection point, beyond which rates of adoption explode, feedbacks and network effects kick in, and total market penetration becomes inevitable.

This is an interesting ongoing conversation. A conversation newspapers pooh-poohed to their great detriment. I love print. I read a novel last night on print, not on an e-reader. I love magazines and I love newspapers. But even though I held a book in my hands yesterday evening, right now all my magazine subscriptions have lapsed — down from a high of around 15 or so a number of years ago — and I subscribe to the Wall Street Journal online and have for years. I let my local paper subscription go several years ago when the total page count dwindled to almost nothing while the price rose almost monthly. Plus I realized I had already digested almost all the news and op-ed pieces long before the paper arrived on my doorstep.

So as much as I love print and physically holding, smelling and interacting with books, magazines and newspapers, the reality is I do almost all my considerable daily reading online now, and have for many years. The effective death of print might actually come to pass — maybe sooner than later.

August 22, 2010

Keeping solar panels clean

By using technology developed for Mars missions. The budget for NASA gets debated, scoffed at and cut, but all too often people against giving NASA money forget how many products and processes developed for space travel ended up with solidly terrestrial applications.

The release:

Self-cleaning technology from Mars can keep terrestrial solar panels dust free

IMAGE: Researchers have developed technology for large-scale solar power installations to self-clean.

Click here for more information.

BOSTON, Aug. 22, 2010 — Find dusting those tables and dressers a chore or a bore? Dread washing the windows? Imagine keeping dust and grime off objects spread out over an area of 25 to 50 football fields. That’s the problem facing companies that deploy large-scale solar power installations, and scientists today presented the development of one solution — self-dusting solar panels ― based on technology developed for space missions to Mars.

In a report at the 240th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS), they described how a self-cleaning coating on the surface of solar cells could increase the efficiency of producing electricity from sunlight and reduce maintenance costs for large-scale solar installations.

“We think our self-cleaning panels used in areas of high dust and particulate pollutant concentrations will highly benefit the systems’ solar energy output,” study leader Malay K. Mazumder, Ph.D. said. “Our technology can be used in both small- and large-scale photovoltaic systems. To our knowledge, this is the only technology for automatic dust cleaning that doesn’t require water or mechanical movement.”

Mazumder, who is with Boston University, said the need for that technology is growing with the popularity of solar energy. Use of solar, or photovoltaic, panels increased by 50 percent from 2003 to 2008, and forecasts suggest a growth rate of at least 25 percent annually into the future. Fostering the growth, he said, is emphasis on alternative energy sources and society-wide concerns about sustainability (using resources today in ways that do not jeopardize the ability of future generations to meet their needs).

Large-scale solar installations already exist in the United States, Spain, Germany, the Middle East, Australia, and India. These installations usually are located in sun-drenched desert areas where dry weather and winds sweep dust into the air and deposit it onto the surface of solar panel. Just like grime on a household window, that dust reduces the amount of light that can enter the business part of the solar panel, decreasing the amount of electricity produced. Clean water tends to be scarce in these areas, making it expensive to clean the solar panels.

“A dust layer of one-seventh of an ounce per square yard decreases solar power conversion by 40 percent,” Mazumder explains. “In Arizona, dust is deposited each month at about 4 times that amount. Deposition rates are even higher in the Middle East, Australia, and India.”

Working with NASA, Mazumder and colleagues initially developed the self-cleaning solar panel technology for use in lunar and Mars missions. “Mars of course is a dusty and dry environment,” Mazumder said, “and solar panels powering rovers and future manned and robotic missions must not succumb to dust deposition. But neither should the solar panels here on Earth.”

The self-cleaning technology involves deposition of a transparent, electrically sensitive material deposited on glass or a transparent plastic sheet covering the panels. Sensors monitor dust levels on the surface of the panel and energize the material when dust concentration reaches a critical level. The electric charge sends a dust-repelling wave cascading over the surface of the material, lifting away the dust and transporting it off of the screen’s edges.

Mazumder said that within two minutes, the process removes about 90 percent of the dust deposited on a solar panel and requires only a small amount of the electricity generated by the panel for cleaning operations.

The current market size for solar panels is about $24 billion, Mazumder said. “Less than 0.04 percent of global energy production is derived from solar panels, but if only four percent of the world’s deserts were dedicated to solar power harvesting, our energy needs could be completely met worldwide. This self-cleaning technology can play an important role.”

###

The American Chemical Society is a non-profit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. With more than 161,000 members, ACS is the world’s largest scientific society and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

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