Technology

Headlines (5/21/2007)

Inside the Digital Dump. Poor Chinese are poisoning themselves trying to strike it rich mining discard electronics for copper and gold.

New process generates hydrogen from aluminum alloy to run engines, fuel cells. If I read this right, we could be looking at using water to fuel hydrogen powered vehicles.

For 2008, Who Isn't a Flip-Flopper?. The Washington Post calls the '08 candidates onto the carpet for Flip-Flopping on both sides of the aisle.

Prewar intelligence foretold Iraq upheaval. Still believe Cheney when he says that we could not have foretold the situation that has developed in Iraq. Our own intelligence people did.

Senators to debate immigration policy.

Headlines (5/18/2007)

Today's headlines are a mixed bag of political, business, and environmental news. Some good, some bad, some just more of the same:

Google wins part of nude-photo suit. This is a victory for search engines and fair use. It's not all great news however, as the court is still deciding whether Google can link to a website without permission.

Scientists cast doubt on Kennedy bullet analysis. A new look at old evidence debunks the single-shooter theory of the assassination. Please, please, no one tell Oliver Stone.

Deal May Legalize Millions of Immigrants. Much to the chagrin of the border-control crowd I suspect. If you're wondering whether it's a good plan, consider that people at both ends of the spectrum hate it. That's a victory for the silent majority.

Headlines (5/16/2007)

Crackdown on Indian Outsourcing Firms. H1-B visas are supposed to allow foreign nationals to come to the U.S. to work. So why are a few Indian outsourcing firms ending up with 30% of them?

“Is your PC virus-free? Get it infected here!”. Would you believe anyone would click a Google ad inviting them to have their computer infected with a virus. Believe it.

Toyota cutting hybrid costs, claims every car produced will be hybrid by 2020. As has been speculated many times, Toyota confirms that economy of scale can also apply to alternative vehicles.

Gonzales: Deputy Was Pointman on Firings.

Headlines (5/14/2007)

Starting something new today. The news goes by faster than I can comment. So, to help apathy.net readers keep up, here are the stories I'm reading today:

Microsoft takes on the free world. Fortune magazine digs into Microsoft's plans to seek patent royalties from users of FOSS software like linux.

Iran warns U.S. over strike threat. Following Dick Cheney's remarks that the U.S. will stop Iran from building Nuclear weapons, Iran's president, Ahmadinejad, threatens retaliation for any American strikes and asks whether the U.S. has overstayed its welcome in the region.

Size matters, so does shape under new postal rates. New postal rates begin today in the U.S. The rates, available at the U.S. Post Office bring some confusion to mailing. No longer will first class mail only be rejected for weight, but also size. While normal sized first-class mail is going up a meager 2 cents, large letters go to 80 cents. A large letter is anything that exceeds any one of these dimensions: 11 1/2" long, 6 1/8" high, 1/4" thick.

High School Student Arrested For Modeling School For Game

A senior at Clements High School in Fort Bend, Texas was arrested by police for creating a 3-D model of his school for use in a video game.

China Plans Online Gaming Curfew Of Sorts

Fearing that children are spending too much time playing online games, the Chinese government has given software vendors in China three months to place curbs on gaming by underage players.

For games that allow players to accumulate points, the games would be required to stop giving players points after three hours of play in a given day.

This policy assumes, of course, that these kids play only one game online.

This does remind me a bit of the policies built into World of Warcraft that encourage players to take a break from the game. In WOW, players who rest get a 100% to experience accumulation proportionate to the time spent not playing. I suspect that Blizzard Entertainment, makers of World of Warcraft, are more concerned about server load than the health of their players, but the policy does achieve the same goal.

One has to wonder if such 'nanny state' kind of policies where the state substitutes its judgment for the judgment of the parents are a good idea. Libertarians would argue that such regulation is unnecessary and would point at Blizzard's initiative as a sign that the market can handle the problem on its own.

Toward 100 Miles Per Gallon

Can you make, and sell, a car that goes one hundred miles on a gallon of gas? That's a question we should expect to hear soon from the X-Prize Foundation (the people responsible for the civilian space race.)

They are expected to announce a $25 million prize for creating a car that can go 100 MPG and, here's the kicker, selling a to-be-determined number of units.

One of the most promising recent developments that stands a real chance of competing for this prize is the concept of a Hydraulic Hybrid. We've heard of "hybrid" cars before and many people have fears regarding the safety and expense of batteries, but these hybrids don't use batteries.

Battery hybrids have electric motors that run off batteries that are charged by braking, a supplemental internal combustion (IC) engine (i.e., gas engine), and sometimes an overnight charge (i.e, a "pluggable" hybrid.)

Hydraulic Hybrids have a hydraulic motor (basically a system of pumps that use pressurized fluid for power). An IC engine powers the pumps to maintain vehicle speed, but most of the power used in acceleration comes for stored hydraulic energy captured during breaking.

eVote And Vote Often

Apparently, the Sequoia Touch Screen Voting Machines have a little yellow button which, if pressed, allows you to vote more than once.

"Just push the yellow button and you can vote as many times as you want," Tom Courbat, an Election Integrity advocate from Riverside County, California informed The BRAD BLOG tonight. Not that we're in any mood to report more such stories, but this seems to be a big one. A very big one.

It seems there's a little yellow button on the back of every touch-screen computer made by Sequoia Voting Systems, that allows any voter, or poll worker, or precinct inspector to set the system into "Manual Mode" allowing them to cast as many votes as they want.

Early Voting Reveals Problems With Machines In Florida

Well, it didn't take long for the first reports of problems with electronic machines. This time, it's in Broward County, Florida.

Several South Florida voters say the choices they touched on the electronic screens were not the ones that appeared on the review screen -- the final voting step.

Of course, it will be impossible to know how many people confirmed the results on the final screen without realizing they were incorrect.

EPA Demands More Efficient Computers

Starting in July of 2007, PC manufacturers will need to produce machines that are significantly more efficient to garner the EPA's coveted "Energy Star" rating:

On average, the revised requirements for the Energy Star program will require PCs to be 65 percent more power efficient than current models.

Chinese Bring Patent Suits In U.S. Courts

Bring war material with you from home, but forage on the enemy... use the conquered foe to augment one's own strength.
-Sun Tzu, the Art of War

As China's economy continues to grow at an amazing 11%, Chinese companies are starting to flex their muscles outside there own borders. First content to settle, circumvent, or lose and move on in patent suits, they're now ready to bring the battle to American companies.

This year, Netac, a manufacturer of computer flash memory products based in Shenzhen, China, brought a patent suit against a New Jersey rival in a federal court in Texas, in what is believed to be the first time that a mainland Chinese company has sued an American one for patent infringement.

Are Pluggable Hybrids (PHEVs) Economical?

A Christian Science Monitor story calls into question the economic efficiency of Pluggable Hybrid Electric Vehicles.

A groundbreaking study released last week sounds a cautionary note to the consumer. Plug-ins do burn less gasoline than regular hybrids - and gobs less than gasoline-only vehicles - but the high cost of their bigger battery packs will probably neutralize even significant savings at the pump, according to a report by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient America (ACEEE)

I have looked into the costs vs savings argument myself, and there is compelling arguments to be made for staying with a gas-powered car if your only concern is money. However, there is more at stake than money. Hybrids, and especially PHEVs, reduce our dependence on foreign oil and are beneficial to the environment in terms of the reduction of CO2 emissions. Costs will come down as adoption rates climb.

$10,000 Electric Car Available

The Boston Globe has an article detailing the first delivery of an electric car made by Zero Air Polution to a buyer in Boston.

The car, called the Xebra, has one significant handicap: it has a top speed of 40 mph.

I think it's nice that people are trying to make these things work, but a car that can only go 40mph I think does more to discredit the electric car movement than support it.

Software Patents Invade Online Classroom

The very idea of patenting an idea rather than an actual invention stinks beyond description, but that's exactly what the folks at the U.S. Patent Office allow. To them, the idea need only be non-obvious, which seems to mean they've never heard of it described before in a patent.

Now the folks at Blackboard Inc have been awarded a patent on e-learning software used by millions to access college courses from home. CNN has coverage here.

Understanding The Demise Of The Electric Car

"Who Killed The Electric Car?" asks Chris Paine in his recently released documentary of the same name. The documentary ultimately lays the blame at the feet of several people/organizations. This commentary from CNN provides a nice recap of the film and the issues it raises. For the most part, the motives of the parties involved are clear. The most difficult to understand, however, is the automakers themselves. The movie makes the case for their motives but never really spells them out. Here's the reasoning that I inferred from the evidence presented/hinted at:

  • mandate - the companies were annoyed at being told they must sell these cars.
  • profit - they never saw enough demand to allow them to go into mass production.
  • maintenance - the cars required so little maintenance that the manufacturers and dealers saw no hope of making money from the service/parts side of the business.
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