David Kirkpatrick

August 22, 2008

Cool political websites

Filed under: Media, Politics — Tags: , , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:36 pm

CIO.com has a story on five “innovative” political sites. Interesting article because these are all off the beaten track of internet politics. There’s plenty out there in this presidential election year coupled with very active web communities on the left and the right.

Check out the article for the scoop on all five. To get you started here’s number three — and a potential money maker:

3. SaysMe.tv

You say you’ve always secretly yearned to be a political media strategist? Here’s your chance. At SaysMe.tvyou can select a pre-fab 30-second political ad and run it on one of several TV channels. (At press time SaysMe was available in 11 U.S. cities; by year-end it plans to sell time in 82 cable markets nationwide.) You can choose from a few dozen ads promoting issues on either side of the political stripe, with new ones added each week. Then pick the market and channel where you want it to run and how many times it should appear. Best of all, each ad ends with “Paid for by [your name].”

Of course, air time costs money. A single airing starts at $6 for CNBC in Cleveland and reaches as high as $2750 for TNT in Los Angeles. But you can also submit your own broadcast-quality political spots that others can use –and collect royalties every time someone else airs them.


Wireless power demonstration

Intel wirelessly powered a 60 watt lightbulb in a recent demonstration. Electricity distributed through the air, rather than power lines, has been discussed, discarded and actively feared at various times in the past. Intel’s show may be the nudge that takes the idea to wider acceptance.

From the Technology Review link:

Imagine juicing up your laptop computer or cell phone without plugging them into an electrical socket. That’s a luxury that could be provided by wireless power transmission, a concept that has been bandied about for decades but is creeping closer to becoming viable.

Building off work unveiled last year by Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers, Intel Corp. on Thursday demonstrated how to make a 60-watt light bulb glow from an energy source 3 feet away. The Intel team did it with relatively high efficiency, losing only a quarter of the energy the researchers started with.

“That to me is the most striking part about it — transmitting 60 watts at 75 percent efficiency over several feet,” Intel’s chief technology officer, Justin Rattner, said in an interview. “The power pack for your laptop isn’t that efficient … it’s one of those things that’s almost too good to be true.”

Wireless transmission of electricity makes use of some basic physics. Electric coils that resonate at the same frequency can transmit energy to each other at a distance.

August 21, 2008

Possible light blogging coming up

Filed under: Arts, et.al., Media — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 9:02 pm

Along with professional writing I occasionally work in the fine art conservation and preservation area. I blogged about one very cool project here.

Right now I’m getting into what looks like a major project that falls more under the historic preservation umbrella restoring some original iron work at Dallas’ Union Station. To the best of our knowledge this work is in the ballpark of 90-years-old.

Hopefully I’ll get the chance to get some images and do a post on this project, but in the meantime I might not blog as often as I do at times. I’m sure I’ll get a post, or a few, in each day.

Obama’s veep choice coming Saturday

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 8:52 pm

Looks like the buzz was correct.

August 20, 2008

Biomass gasoline coming within two years

Filed under: Science — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 10:46 pm

From KurzweilAI.net — If this comes to pass, high-octane gasoline from biomass could be a game changer.

Gasoline produced from biomass could be in fuel tanks by 2010 with new technology
PhysOrg.com, Aug. 19, 2008

Texas A&M University scientists have developed a process to make converting biomass to high-octane gasoline possible, at $1.70 and $2.00 per gallon.

Biomass includes garbage, biosolids from wastewater treatment plants, green waste such as lawn clippings, food waste, and any type of livestock manure. Additionally, since it does not use crops such as corn, it will not put a strain on food supplies.
Read Original Article>>

Optical computing coming soon?

Filed under: Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:59 pm

From KurzweilAI.net — optical computing is an exciting development and looks like it’s coming down the pike.

Scientists Move Optical Computing Closer to Reality
PhysOrg.com, Aug. 19, 2008

University of Pennsylvania scientists have theorized a way to increase the speed of pulses of light traveling in nanoparticle chains (acting as miniature waveguides) to 2.5 times the speed of light by altering the particle shape.

As the velocity of the light pulse increases, so too does the operating bandwidth of a waveguide, thus increasing the number of information channels and allowing more information to flow simultaneously through a waveguide.

They found that shaping the particles as prolate, cigar-shaped or oblate, saucer-shaped spheroids boosted the velocities of surface plasmon pulses reflecting off the surface to 2.5 times the speed of light in a vacuum, while decreasing power loss.

Application of this theory would use nanosized metal chains as building blocks for novel optoelectronic and optical devices, which would operate at higher frequencies than conventional electronic circuits. Such devices could eventually find applications in the developing area of high-speed optical computing, in which protons and light replace electrons and transistors for greater performance.

Read Original Article>>

Just in time for the NFL season, TMQ is back

Filed under: Business, et.al., Media, Sports — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:24 pm

Gregg Easterbrook’s Tuesday Morning Quarterback is an NFL season staple. When he’s on it’s a great read and when he’s off the column is almost insufferable.

One aspect of TMQ is either a bonus bit of fun or just annoying depending on your perspective, but it’s a guarantee that along with pro football you’re going to get a random bit of commentary on either some of Easterbrook’s pet causes or maybe just something he’s researching for a magazine piece.

This week’s TMQ had a riff on the ongoing problems facing Fannie Mae, and a focus on corporate overpay scandals.

Easterbrook makes a great point with this bonus bit of business commentary.

From the link:

This is the core lesson of CEO overpay scandals: The corrupt or incompetent executive always keeps the money. He may be caught and embarrassed by bad press, but he keeps the money while someone else — shareholders, taxpayers, workers — is punished. Raines recently settled a federal legal complaint by agreeing to return about $3 million of his $50 million, but kept the rest; his employment contract was worded such that even if he was malfeasant, whatever he took from company coffers was his. Hilariously, federal prosecutors claimed victory because Raines “surrendered” to the government a large block of stock options — options now worthless, owing to the Fannie Mae decline Raines helped set in motion by lying about Fannie numbers. Until Congress enacts a law that allows money taken by corrupt or incompetent executives to be recovered, the lying will continue. Lying by CEOs is what society rewards!

The dumb side of Web 2.0

Filed under: Business, Media, Technology — Tags: , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:04 pm

Not all Web 2.0 sites out there are useful. Some it could be argued are nothing more than solutions looking for non-existent problems.

CIO.com served up the 14 most ridiculous sites they could find:

Alas, not every Web 2.0 site is a winner. Many are vague, pointless, or just plain silly. As Web critic Nicholas Carr notes, “If I were called in to rename Web 2.0, I think I’d call it Gilligan’s Web,” after the goofy ’60s sitcom.

How do you identify a dumb Web 2.0 site? First, the site’s mission statement must be impenetrable. (“Spotback is a personalized rating system that recommends relevant content based on personal rating history using collaborative filtering and aggregated knowledge technologies.” Huh?) Second, the site must solve a problem that has been solved a million times already or didn’t need solving in the first place. Third, its name must love the letter “r” but eschew vowels ( Drivl, Grazr, Hngry), or be a refugee from “Jabberwocky” ( CurdBee, Egghub, Humyo, Jiffle).

Here are 14 of the silliest and most redundant, tasteless, or mystifying Web 2.0 sites. Warning: Visiting these sites may impair higher brain functions.

August 19, 2008

The state of the race

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:15 pm

Andrew Sullivan made a salient point today. Obama and McCain are virutually tied after a very weak month for Obama. So far this has been a weird race, but I think it’ll turn into a sprint after the conventions and veep picks.

I just get the feeling Obama is completely coasting right now and will really turn on the gas for the final weeks. The Democratic base is ready to be excited about election day. I don’t think the GOP base is fired up about anything, and certainly not McCain as the candidate.

From the link:

Obama has had a dreadful month since Berlin. And McCain is still only even. If you want to read a brilliant take on the strengths and weaknesses of the McCain moment, Ambers’ imagined conversation is indispensable.

About that Bigfoot corpse …

Filed under: et.al., Media — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:09 pm

… yep, it’s a hoax.

I can’t believe I’m actually doing two blog posts on this story (find my original take here.)

This result is not surprising at all.

From the second link:

After the Searching For Bigfoot team and “The Real Bigfoot Hunter” Tom Biscardi began to thaw out the creature in a 1,500 lb. cooler of ice, they discovered it was a rubber suit. Biscardi contacted Whitton and Dyer and they agreed to admit the truth to the public. When Biscardi arrived at their hotel, the pair had vanished.

World’s smallest SRAM

From KurzweilAI.net — just wow!

Kudos to IBM, AMD, Freescale STMicroelectronics, Toshiba and CNSE

Researchers Build World’s Smallest SRAM Memory Cell
PhysOrg.com, Aug. 18, 2008

IBM and its development partners — AMD, Freescale, STMicroelectronics, Toshiba and the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (CNSE) — have announced the first working static random access memory (SRAM) for the 22 nanometer technology node.

The new SRAM cell (basic building block) has an area of 100 square nanometers, breaking the previous SRAM scaling barriers.

Key enablers of the SRAM cell include band edge high-K metal gate stacks, transistors with less than 25 nm gate lengths, thin spacers, novel co-implants, advanced activation techniques, extremely thin silicide, and damascene copper contacts.

Read Original Article>>

August 18, 2008

Microsoft file format gets ISO standard nod

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

Microsoft’s Office Open XML has been approved as an ISO standard.

From the link:

The decision ends months of wrangling over whether Microsoft’s Office Open XML format should be considered an open standard – a requirement for many lucrative government contracts.

Brazil, India, South Africa and Venezuela had complained that an international ballot held in April was poorly conducted and rushed them into a decision based on incomplete information.

Technical panels at the Geneva-based ISO and its sister organization, the International Electrotechnical Commission, considered the appeals but concluded that they lacked the necessary support of two-thirds of their membership.

The two bodies said it will take several weeks before OOXML officially becomes an international standard.

Day4 Energy offers more efficient solar cells

Filed under: Business, Science, Technology — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:58 pm

Solar news is coming fast and furious these days. Here’s the latest — Day4 Energy says they’ve increased their cells efficiency.

From the Technology Review link:

By changing the way that conventional silicon solar panels are made, Day4 Energy, a startup based in Burnaby, British Columbia, has found a way to cut the cost of solar power by 25 percent, says George Rubin, the company’s president.

The company has developed a new electrode that, together with a redesigned solar-cell structure, allows solar panels to absorb more light and operate at a higher voltage. This increases the efficiency of multicrystalline silicon solar panels from an industry standard of about 14 percent to nearly 17 percent. Because of this higher efficiency, Day4’s solar panels generate more power than conventional panels do, yet they will cost the same, Rubin says. He estimates the cost per watt of solar power would be about $3, compared with $4 for conventional solar cells. That will translate into electricity prices of about 20 cents per kilowatt-hour in sunny areas, down from about 25 cents per kilowatt-hour, he says.

Other experimental solar technologies could lead to much lower prices–indeed, they promise to compete with the average cost of electricity in the United States, which is about 10 cents per kilowatt-hour. But such technologies, including advanced solar concentrators and some thin-film semiconductor solar cells, probably won’t be available for years. Day4’s technology could be for sale within 18 months, the company says.

August 17, 2008

The latest Bigfoot claim

Filed under: et.al., Media — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:39 pm

I first read about this bit of nonsense here at BoingBoing. Follow that link to more information on two Georgia hunter/hoaxers who “found” a bigfoot corpse that amazingly looks just like a well-known Sasquatch mask.

Cryptozoologists have been all over this story, and in their typical scientific rigor have completely ignored many, many red flags attached to this latest “finding.”

Here’s the PhysOrg take:

Matthew Whitton and Rick Dyer claimed before a crowd of sceptical reporters that they were hiking in a northern part of the US state of Georgia in June when they stumbled upon a body near water.

“I recognized it was unusual right away,” Whitton told the press conference in Palo Alto. “The first thing that pops into your head is that it’s Bigfoot.”

The body was said to be seven-feet, seven-inches tall and weigh more than 500 pounds. The men claimed to have stored the body in a freezer.

Photos of the “corpse” were posted at http://www.searchingforbigfoot.com. Advertising on the Web page Friday offered Bigfoot T-shirts and films.

Reports of Whitton and Dyer’s “find” appeared across national print and US media on Friday, with many experts suspicious of the men’s claims.

Jeffrey Meldrum, a prominent Bigfoot expert and professor of anatomy and anthropology at Idaho State University told Scientific American.com he doubted the find was legitimate.

“I’m extremely skeptical about this bigfoot claim,” he said. “What I’ve seen so far is not compelling in the least, and I think the pictures cast grave doubts on their claim. It just looks like a costume with some fake guts thrown on top for effect.”

Bigfoot, also referred to as “Sasquatch,” tells of a gargantuan, elusive furred creature that walks upright and lives in remote forests in the Pacific Northwest of the United States and Canada.

Georgia is in the country’s south.

Many scientists believe Bigfoot is folklore instead of fact.

Biscardi says he has been tracking Bigfoot since 1971 and speaks of his efforts on an internet radio show.

August 16, 2008

Mechanical properties of carbon nanotubes studied

Filed under: Science, Technology — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:59 pm

I didn’t get around to this story yesterday.

Here’s the lead:

For more than 15 years, carbon nanotubes (CNTs) have been the flagship material of nanotechnology. Researchers have conceived applications for nanotubes ranging from microelectronic devices to cancer therapy. Their atomic structure should, in theory, give them mechanical and electrical properties far superior to most common materials.
Unfortunately, theory and experiments have failed to converge on the true mechanical properties of CNTs. Researchers at Northwestern University recently made the first experimental measurements of the mechanical properties of carbon nanotubes that directly correspond to the theoretical predictions.


And the nut graf was pretty buried:

“Irradiating a multiwalled carbon nanotube with an intense electron beam actually forms bonds among the shells of the tube. This is like combining multiple nanotubes into one to form a stronger structure,” said lead author Bei Peng, who recently received his doctoral degree from Northwestern under Espinosa’s supervision.

This phenomenon also has been theorized in the past, and the research confirms that the properties of multiwalled nanotubes can easily and controllably be altered by electron irradiation.

The irradiation work was supplemented by detailed atomistic modeling. Using computer simulations of the atomic structure of the nanotubes, the team of researchers was able to isolate the mechanism of strengthening due to irradiation.

“The same procedure used to strengthen individual multiwalled nanotubes by irradiation may also be used to link together individual nanotubes into a bundle,” said Mark Locascio, a doctoral student co-author of the paper.

This mechanism of crosslinking is a promising method for creating much larger nanotube-based structures. When nanotubes are packed together, they typically have very weak interactions along their surfaces; a spun nanotube rope would not be nearly as strong as its nanoscale constituents. However, irradiation may be the key to improving these interactions by inducing covalent bonds between tubes. If the properties of nanotubes can be scaled up to macroscale ropes and fibers, they may become a viable option for any high-strength application. This could include large cables for applications in industry or infrastructure, as well as smaller threads for lightweight woven fabrics, ballistic armors or composite reinforcement.

August 15, 2008

Shapeways offers online 3D modeling tool

Filed under: Arts, Business, Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:28 pm

I blogged about Shapeways a couple of weeks ago here and the latest update about the consumer 3D company popped up in the inbox today. The company is announcing the Shapeways Creator Engine, an online tool for 3D modeling.

Like I mentioned in my earlier post on Shapeways, I do communications consulting for a company in the 3D visualization and modeling space and it’s a fairly esoteric and very expensive industry for operations at any level.

The high end will remain up in the stratosphere, but I think it’s great Shapeways is bringing this tech “to the masses,” so to speak. Without having a closer look at its tools and process, it seems Shapeways is offering a reasonable entry into the world of 3D visualization and modeling for professionals and hobbyists alike.

Here’s the release sent to me today:


 Shapeways Creator Enables Affordable Personal Design and Manufacturing with New Easy-To-Use 3D Online Customization

August 12, 2008 – Los Angeles, CA- SIGGRAPH, Booth #138 – Shapeways, a new platform and global community for 3D-design and production, takes
a major step towards the next generation of consumer co-creation with the announcement of the Shapeways Creator Engine. For the first time, consumers without 3D modeling skills can shape, mash, imprint and design their own 3D products in just a few mouse clicks at Shapeways.com. From lamps with a personal message to fruit bowls linking back to memorable moments, the Shapeways Creator Engine has a beta library of predesigned product templates which is expected to
grow rapidly over 2009.

“We recognize the desire of consumers who want to own or give something that is unique and has their special, personal touch,” commented Peter Weijmarshausen, CEO of Shapeways. “With the Creator Engine, now anyone can participate in the artistic process and create something that is truly a reflection of their own needs and tastes.
With the Creator Engine, we have broken the currently existingtrade-off between freedom of design and the complexity of the design process.”

“In today’s world, consumers are universally less and less satisfied with the choice that the usual shops offer,” said Jochem de Boer, CMO of Shapeways. “Instead, they are looking for ways to reflect their personal identity in the objects that they choose to have around them, or that they carefully select as a unique gift for their loved ones.”

Shapeways offers 3D modelers an affordable, web-based platform to share and produce their designs imported directly from popular 3D modeling software via a technique called 3D printing. Shapeways verifies objects to ensure printability and provides a real-time cost estimate. Within 10 working days, a tangible 3D product will be produced and arrive at the consumer’s home globally.

To experience the new Shapeways Creator Engine and the Shapeways community, log-on to:http://www.shapeways.com/

About Shapeways
Shapeways is the first online 3D consumer co-creation community. Harnessing the power of a creative community and a global network of production service partners, Shapeways ensures the most cost-efficient, reliable manufacturing and order fulfillment for digital manufacturing today. Shapeways is spinning-out from the
Lifestyle Incubator of Royal Philips Electronics, located in Eindhoven, The Netherlands.

Copyright ruling good news for open source software and others

Filed under: Arts, Business, et.al., Media, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:03 pm

This ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, D.C., is great news for open source software developers, and anyone who wishes to exert some level of control over their creative works whether sold or given away.

One example is the Creative Commonscopyright license project. This project is geared toward authors, scientists, artists and educators to allow people to define the rights they assert and the rights they offer for use.

I use a Creative Commons license when I post fiction online. The fiction I choose to post is offered for no-cost re-publication as long as it’s not for commercial purposes. If say a magazine or commercial website wanted to run one of my stories they would have to get in contact with me and either get my permission or come to terms for compensation. This way I can offer selected works of art to be freely shared and still “own” the commercial rights to the work. Just because I give it away for one purpose doesn’t mean I’m ceding the right to compensation in another context.

This is from the Creative Commons “about” page:

Creative Commons is a Massachusetts-chartered 501(c)(3) tax-exempt charitable corporation. For more information, see the corporate charter, by-laws, most recent tax return and most recent audited financial statement.

Creative Commons defines the spectrum of possibilities between full copyright — all rights reserved — and the public domain — no rights reserved. Our licenses help you keep your copyright while inviting certain uses of your work — a “some rights reserved” copyright.

Too often the debate over creative control tends to the extremes. At one pole is a vision of total control — a world in which every last use of a work is regulated and in which “all rights reserved” (and then some) is the norm. At the other end is a vision of anarchy — a world in which creators enjoy a wide range of freedom but are left vulnerable to exploitation. Balance, compromise, and moderation — once the driving forces of a copyright system that valued innovation and protection equally — have become endangered species.

Creative Commons is working to revive them. We use private rights to create public goods: creative works set free for certain uses. Like the free software and open-source movements, our ends are cooperative and community-minded, but our means are voluntary and libertarian. We work to offer creators a best-of-both-worlds way to protect their works while encouraging certain uses of them — to declare “some rights reserved.”

From the PhyOrg.com (way up in the first graf) link:

In a crucial win for the free software movement, a federal appeals court has ruled that even software developers who give away the programming code for their works can sue for copyright infringement if someone misappropriates that material.

The decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, D.C., helps clarify a murky area of the law concerning how much control programmers can exert over their intellectual property once it’s been released for free into the so-called “open source” software community.

People are free to use that material in their own products, but they must credit the original authors of the programming code and release their modifications into the wild as well, a cycle that’s critical for free software to continue improving.

Because the code was given away for free, thorny questions emerge when a violation has been discovered and someone is found to have shoved the code into their own for-profit products without giving anything back, in the form of attribution and disclosure of the alterations they made.

Here’s the entry on this from the Creative Commons site:

Brian Rowe, August 13th, 2008


The United States Court of Appeals held that “Open Source” or public license licensors are entitled to copyright infringement relief.

The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC), the leading IP court in the United States, has upheld a free copyright license, while explicitly pointing to the work of Creative Commons and others. The Court held that free licenses such as the CC licenses set conditions (rather than covenants) on the use of copyrighted work.  As a result, licensors using public licenses are able to seek injunctive relief for alleged copyright infringement, rather than being limited to traditional contract remedies.

Creative Commons founder Lawrence Lessig explained the theory of all free software, open source, and Creative Commons licenses upheld by the court: “When you violate the condition, the license disappears, meaning you’re simply a copyright infringer. This is the theory of the GPL and all CC licenses. Put precisely, whether or not they are also contracts, they are copyright licenses which expire if you fail to abide by the terms of the license.” Lessig said the ruling provided “important clarity and certainty by a critically important US Court.”

Today’s ruling vacated the district court’s decision and affirmed the availability of remedies based on copyright law for violations of open licenses.  The federal court noted that ignoring attribution requirements contained in the license caused reputation and economic harm to the original licensor. This opinion demonstrates a strong understanding of a basic economic principles of the internet; attribution is a valuable economic right in the information economy.  Read the full opinion.(PDF)


Creative Commons filed a friends of the court brief in this case. Thanks to all the cosponsors Linux Foundation, The Open Source Initiative, Software Freedom Law Center, the Perl Foundation and Wikimedia Foundation.  Significant pro bono work on this brief was provided by Anthony T. Falzone and Christopher K. Ridder of Stanford’s Center for Internet & Society. Read the full brief.

Full Press Release

A chink in the RIAA’s legal armor?

Filed under: Arts, Business, et.al., Media — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:59 pm

I love the music industry. I even have a vested interest in the music industry succeeding. It’s just the old system no longer works. Digital files, and their inherent purity through virtually unlimited copies, have changed the entire ballgame.

The RIAA either does not get it, or more likely doesn’t like the fact their psuedoextortionist racket no longer rules the land. The major labels didn’t get it for the longest, but I do think these behemoths realize accommodations have to be made in order to remain viable, ongoing concerns.

I’ve blogged on the evils of the RIAA and the troubles facing the music industry here, here and here.

Now there’s some decent legal news on the asinine lawsuits the RIAA continues to file against ordinary people who get caught up in their quasi-legal dragnet.

If a new trial is granted for Jammie Thomas, the RIAA may find itself in a very difficult legal position going forward. And hopefully an actionable position from those it’s already railroaded with frivolous, punitive lawsuits.

From the WSJ link:

Judge Davis told the jury that making songs available online for distribution to others was copyright violation and that the record companies did not have to prove distribution took place. He has since learned of a federal district-court case in Phoenix that ruled that making songs available was not copyright violation. He is weighing granting Ms. Thomas a new trial.

If one is granted, one outcome could be a higher bar for what record labels need to prove to demonstrate that copyrights have been violated. For example, evidence that more than a handful of songs on a shared file folder were distributed to others may be needed.

“It’s going to be more difficult for them to prove” if they can’t simply rely on showing that songs were in somebody’s shared file folder, says Brian Toder, a partner at Minneapolis-based Chestnut & Cambronne who is representing Ms. Thomas.

Making solar just a little greener …

Filed under: Business, Science — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:01 pm

… by making the plastic components out of cotton and castor beans. From KurzweilAI.net, a link to the story about BioSolar:


Making a Solar Cell Component without Using Fossil Fuels
ScientificAmerican.com, Aug. 13, 2008

BioSolar is creating new plastic backing for photovoltaic cells out of renewable cotton and castor beans rather than petroleum products, while costing 25 percent less than conventional backsheets, the company says.

Read Original Article>>

New solar plants in Cali to service almost 250,000

This deal is significant because it involves utility-scale solar photovoltaic plants. Pacific Gas & Electric inked contracts for two solar power plants and those deals brings its contractual commitment to alternative power to around 25%.

From the link:

Pacific Gas & Electric Co.announced two utility-scale solar photovoltaic contracts that will deliver a combined 800 megawatts of solar power to the utility from two massive solar power plants to be built in San Luis Obispo County.

The two plants combined will produce enough electricity to power approximately 239,000 homes a year, according to the utility.

PG&E said Thursday afternoon it entered an agreement with Topaz Solar Farms LLC, a subsidiary of OptiSolar Inc., for 550 megawatts of thin-film solar power. It also entered an agreement with High Plains Ranch II LLC, a subsidiary of SunPower Corp, for 250 megawatts of high-efficiency solar power.

The deals mark a significant commitment to solar PV technology and signal renewed interest in photovoltaic, which has been considered less economical than other types of large-scale solar power.

Up until now, most of the utility-scale solar contracts have been for solar thermal power plants, which utilize fields of mirrors to focus the sun’s rays to boil water and generate steam to power a turbine.

“These landmark agreements signal the arrival of utility-scale photovoltaic solar power that may be cost-competitive with solar thermal and wind energy,” Jack Keenan, chief operating officer and senior vice president for PG&E, said in a statement.

Yahoo rolls out Fire Eagle

Filed under: Business, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:23 am

Fire Eagle is a management system for location data and had only been available to invited users. The service is now open to everyone.

From the Technology Review link:

With Fire Eagle, Coates and Yahoo are betting that location-aware technology is going to be big. The sort of future that Coates envisions is one in which your location can be broadcast to any website, added to your blog, and used to help you search for friends, news, and shopping deals nearby–all with your permission, of course. Fire Eagle, Coates said yesterday, can be the single place that a person needs to visit to set privacy requirements and make sure that the right type of location information (exact address, neighborhood, city, state, and country) is being displayed where you want it.

Here’s how it works: if you go directly to the Fire Eagle site, you can manually set your location; if your computer, cell phone, or GPS navigation unit can find your position, you can have these gadgets send that data automatically to Fire Eagle. When Fire Eagle gets your location, it doesn’t do anything with it until you select the Web services to which you want that information sent. For instance, if you have it sent to Pownce, Fire Eagle will update your location in your activity stream. If you allow Fire Eagle to send your location to a service called Radar, it can show you news stories that occur within 1,000 feet of your position. And there are a handful of services that can use your location information to help you see which friends (who also use the services) are nearby.

Friday video — Ron English and the Sutcliffes’ “Abraham/Obama”

Filed under: Arts, et.al., Media, Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:05 am

Received mail from a friend who’s a member of the Sutcliffes with a link to this new collaboration between the band and pop artist Ron English (I’ve blogged about Ron more than once, here’s one link)

“Abraham/Obama” is:

Ron English…..lyrics
The Sutcliffes…music

And the song is a corollary to Ron’s commissioned mural in Boston. Hit this link for my blog on that project.

Before we get to the music, my friend did leave a few instructions:

Follow these simple steps:
1. Watch over and over
2. Rate 5 stars
3. Forward link to everyone you know
4. Bill Gates will send you a million dollars

Reverend Brando

So there you go … listen to the Rev and follow those five simple steps. Er, Rev, isn’t it in step three where you’re supposed to profit?

At any rate, do enjoy this collaboration of artistic talent.

August 14, 2008

Smaller electronics, larger hard drives

A new manufacturing approach in creating patterned templates should lead to improvements in hard drive technology and electronic devices. The key to the process is self-assembling materials called block copolymers combined with traditional lithography techniques.

From the link:

The block copolymers pattern the resulting array down to the molecular level, offering a precision unattainable by traditional lithography-based methods alone and even correcting irregularities in the underlying chemical pattern. Such nanoscale control also allows the researchers to create higher-resolution arrays capable of holding more information than those produced today.

In addition, the self-assembling block copolymers only need one-fourth as much patterning information as traditional materials to form the desired molecular architecture, making the process more efficient, Nealey says. “If you only have to pattern every fourth spot, you can write those patterns at a fraction of the time and expense,” he says.

In addition to shared intellectual contributions, the collaboration between the UW-Madison and Hitachi teams provided very clear objectives about creating a technology that is industrially viable. “This research addresses one of the most significant challenges to delivering patterned media — the mass production of patterned disks in high volume, at a reasonable cost,” says Richard New, director of research at Hitachi Global Storage Technologies. “The large potential gains in density offered by patterned media make it one of the most promising new technologies on the horizon for future hard disk drives.”

courtesy Paul Nealey

Researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Hitachi Global Storage Technologies have reported a way to improve the quality and resolution of patterned templates such as those used to manufacture hard drives and other data storage devices. When added to lithographically patterned surfaces such as those shown in the upper left panel of this composite image, specially designed materials called block copolymers self-assemble into structures, shown in the upper right panel, with improved quality and resolution over the original patterns. These structures can be used to make templates with nanoscale elements like the silicon pillars shown in the bottom panel, which may be useful for manufacturing higher capacity hard disk drives. Photo by: courtesy Paul Nealey

Thursday video fun — Robert Tilton, televangelist

Filed under: et.al., Media — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 6:59 pm

BoingBoing had a … , well, excited post about the “farting preacher” back up on YouTube.

The preacher in question is Robert Tilton, a crazy, money-grubbing, speaking-in-tongues, disgraced more than once maniac who operated his heyday out of the Dallas area (notice the 214 area code in the clip) during the late-80s/early-90s. He was something special to catch late at night.

If you’re in the Dallas area you can see his erstwhile complex just north of 635 on the east side of I-35. His “ministry” was called Word of Faith and he had a huge billboard of sorts painted on the side of an old grain elevator.

(Update — Maybe not on the building. This is from the Wikipedia link above, “The church building was purchased by the city of Farmers Branch in 1999 for use as a future civic center; however, the economy suffered a downturn and the plans were scrapped, and the building was finally demolished in 2003 to make room for a new youth hockey center.”)

This thing was put together years ago. I remember watching copied VHS versions a long time ago. A great takedown of a very deserving piece of work.

Anyway, here’s the fun — Robert Tilton, the farting preacher.

Partial lunar eclipse Saturday

Filed under: et.al., Science — Tags: , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 6:15 pm

Astronomy news from PhysOrg.com:

Lunar eclipses are visible wherever the Moon is above the horizon. This one will be best seen from most of Africa, Eastern Europe, central Asia, India and the Middle East.

From Western Europe and the United Kingdom, the Moon will rise during the eclipse.

It begins at 1823 GMT, when the Moon enters the lightest part of the Earth’s shadow, the penumbra. Soon after the Moon will have a slight yellowish hue.

It enters the darker part of the terrestrial shadow, the umbra, at 1936 GMT.

Maximum eclipse occurs at 2110 GMT, when more than 80 percent of the visible side of the Moon will be within the umbra and the remainder within the penumbra.

The Moon leaves the umbra at 2244 GMT, and the eclipse finishes when it exits the penumbra at 2359 GMT.

During the eclipse, the Moon lies in front of the stars of the constellation of Capricornus, with the planet Jupiter to its right.

Unlike an eclipse of the Sun, a lunar eclipse is safe to watch and needs no special equipment

Wikipedia to enter web search space

Filed under: Business, Media, Technology — Tags: , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 6:12 pm

Currently 90% of all web searches are conducted through Google, Yahoo and Microsoft. Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, wants to broaden the search marketplace, and take on some internet giants in the process.

From the PhysOrg.com link:

Wales said Wikia Search will run on an open platform, similar to the principles behind Wikipedia, the popular online encyclopedia in which entries can be made and edited by anyone with an Internet connection.

“All of the existing search engines are proprietary black boxes,” said Wales. “You have no idea how things are ranked and what’s going on.”

With Wikia Search, users “can participate in meaningful ways” when they browse the Internet, he said.

Coming soon — Online Privacy Bill of Rights?

New legislation is almost never a solution to any problem, real or perceived, but something along these lines might be necessary given the technology out there for collection and mining of data.

I’m not rendering any judgement on the idea of an “online bill of rights” being proposed by Representative Edward Markey (D-Mass.), head of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, since there are no real details to latch on to. One big problem with any legislation is little bits and pieces of odd law always end up in the body of the bill

There are plans to introduce comprehensive online privacy legislation in the next congressional session.

From the second link:

Dubbed the Online Privacy Bill of Rights, the law may require companies to get approval from consumers before collecting information about their Web-surfing habits, a process known as behavioral targeting that helps Web sites more strategically place ads. The legislation may also demand that companies disclose more information on how they collect and use people’s Web-use data. “There is a reasonable chance that we will see something in the next Congress,” says Michael Hintze, an associate general counsel at Microsoft (MSFT).

Watching what you watch

Legislative interest in ad targeting spiked amid recent hearings over a company called NebuAd, which makes devices that attach to the networks of Internet Service Providers and log surfers’ movements(BusinessWeek.com, 8/14/08). Lawmakers are particularly interested in the implications of NebuAd’s technology, known as deep packet inspection (DPI), one of the most comprehensive ways of keeping tabs on what people do online.

An examination of NebuAd prompted congressional staffers to look at ad targeting more broadly. On Aug. 1, Markey’s committee sent letters to 33 companies, including Google (GOOG), Yahoo! (YHOO), and Microsoft, asking each to outline its tracking practices.

Behavioral targeting has come into its own in recent years as companies crafted ever more powerful methods for combing through data. Internet companies have bolstered their ability to target ads through the acquisition of large ad networks able to amass their own information on consumers’ site-viewing habits. During the past year, Microsoft acquired aQuantive, Time Warner’s (TWX) AOL snapped up Tacoda, Google purchased DoubleClick, and Yahoo bought BlueLithium. The use of ad networks surged from 5% of total ad impressions sold in 2006 to 30% in 2007, according to a study released Aug. 12 by the Interactive Advertising Bureau.

Google’s Move Toward Transparency

Markey’s office says the legislation is still in the planning stages. For instance, it’s unclear what kinds of targeting would fall under requirements that companies let consumers opt-in to letting their data be collected and used. Opt-in clauses could apply to DPI only, or they could include less comprehensive targeting, such as the methods employed by companies such as Google and Yahoo.

The industry is already reacting to new scrutiny from Congress and the Federal Trade Commission in an attempt to avoid federal intervention. During the past year, Yahoo, Microsoft, and AOL began allowing people to opt out of tracking on their sites. They also adopted policies for deleting or making search data anonymous after a certain time period. Updated policies were “long overdue,” says Jules Polonetsky, AOL’s chief privacy officer. “After behaving rather glacially, there has been a huge jump forward just in the past year.”

US corporate tax rate high compared to rivals

I found this Tax Foundation press release via AccountantsWorld. It covers how corporate taxes are falling internationally while the US rate remains unchanged and couches the argument this fact could hurt US economic growth in the future.

Certainly I’m no fan of taxes, but selected releases on studies like this are useless. I didn’t take the time to read the actual study so I’m not sure what it covers, but this release implies other countries are gaining economically on the US because their companies are paying less taxes than last year.

Quite a few economic factors are being left out of this simplistic formulation — little things such as what percentage of national tax revenue contributed by workers in the non-US countries and the corporate tax rates before the reduction.

This Tax Foundation release is food for thought best taken with a grain of salt I think.

The release:

New Study: U.S. Corporate Tax Rate 50% Higher Than Economic Competitors

OECD Study Shows 17th Consecutive Year of Corporate Tax Declining in Non-U.S. Countries While America Stands Still, now Second-Highest

WASHINGTON, Aug. 13 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Tax Foundation President Scott Hodge this morning released the latest Tax Foundation “Fiscal Fact” in response to a new study from the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD). The OECD study shows that for the 17th consecutive year, the average rate of corporate taxes in non-U.S. countries fell while the U.S. corporate tax rate stayed the same.

The new Tax Foundation study can be found at www.taxfoundation.org/publications/show/23470.html.

As a result of the U.S. failure to lower its corporate tax rate for more than two decades while other major trading nations lowered theirs, the U.S. corporate tax rate is now 50% higher than the OECD average. Nine key trading partners cut their rates during 2007.

“Continued failure by U.S. tax policymakers to keep up with our top global economic competitors means that we’re solidifying a trend that will result in our children and grandchildren not seeing the economic growth we’ve seen in our lifetimes,” noted Hodge. “There’s a real-wallet impact for Americans as we continue to sit idly by while other countries improve the way they do business, and we should be very concerned about jobs, capital, and investments moving from high-tax countries to low-tax countries.”

This comes on the heels of another recent OECD study showing that corporate taxes are the single most harmful tax to GDP growth, more so than personal income taxes or consumption taxes.

The combined federal and state corporate tax rate in the U.S. currently stands at 39.3% (the second-highest among industrialized countries), while the OECD average rate has fallen to 26.6%. Even China has recognized the significance of cutting the corporate tax to become more competitive, reducing their top standard corporate tax rate from 33% to 25% just this year.

Scott Hodge is president of the Tax Foundation, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that has monitored fiscal policy at the federal, state and local levels since 1937. He leads the foundation’s new CompeteUSAcampaign for business tax reform along with Robert Carroll, Ph.D., Vice President of Economic Policy at the foundation and recently Deputy Assistant Secretary for Tax Analysis at the Treasury Department.

Source: Tax Foundation

Web Site: www.taxfoundation.org/publications/show/23470.html

Busting the speed of light

Filed under: Science — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:17 pm

Interesting news from KurzweilAI.net:

Quantum strangeness breaks the light barrier
New Scientist, Aug. 13, 2008

University of Geneva scientists sent pairs of entangled photons to labs 18 kilometers apart, showing that if superluminal signals are responsible for entanglement, they must travel at more than 10,000 times the speed of light.

Read Original Article>>

Efficient and polite cyber criminals

Filed under: Business, et.al., Technology — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 11:31 am

The government presented a number of instant messages during the indictments of the eleven people accused of stealing millions of credit card numbers from companies such as Dave and Buster’s, Boston Market and Barnes and Noble, among others.

These messages exposed an operation high on specialization, ready-to-please tech support and abundant praise. Some messages included emoticons. Take away the criminality and the group was running a pleasant, and very efficient, workplace.

From the CIO.com (second) link:

But little time was wasted on chitchat: Tech support was needed to modify sniffer software for an intrusion. According to the DOJ, Maksym “Maksik” Yastremskiy, of Kharkov, Ukraine, in a message to Gonzalez, briefly discussed the need and finished by asking: “… could you, please recompile it 🙂 Thanks.”

Gonzalez’s alleged response: “I can compile right now.” There was no tech support whining in these messages—just professional interest, and perhaps some pride, in how the software worked: “Did your guy use or say anything about my sniffer for dandb [i.e., Dave & Buster’s]?”

“My guy told me to tell you big thanks and etc. ;-)” was Yastremskiy’s reply, the DOJ claimed. Some 5,000 credit card numbers were allegedly taken from the chain by the hacker group.

For some employees, praise is as important as money, and this group evidently had both, according to what’s in the federal charging documents. They made millions until the feds closed their operations this year, according to the indictment.

“These guys collaborate,” said Sam Curry, vice president of the identity access and assurance at RSA Security, a division of EMC Corp. “They even have [service-level agreements] and support numbers to reach other. They have specialized roles, sophisticated economics [and] worldwide reach.”

It’s the degree of specialization that’s a tip-off as to how big these organizations are. It took focus and organization to allegedly attack nine major retailers, steal some 40 million credit and debit card numbers, decrypt PINs, withdraw cash and sell the numbers on black markets.

The main targets were retailers. The thieves parked their cars near retail outlets, searched for open networks and installed programs to capture the wanted data.

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