Friday, April 30, 2010

Cars increase in embedded technology, biogas, and more wind

It's Friday, and Science Friday on NPR was great today.

This story on the increasing complexity of technology - namely embedded technology - in autos is raising the complexity of testing components. But auto manufacturers are mainly acting as system integrators so they are not necessarily privy to the code contained within the components they are buying, and thus have little to say about what code could be contributing to any malfunctions.

The BioFuel Roundup covered all the technologies from cellulose conversion (think switch grass) and using algae to make fuels. The guests were very attuned to the business aspects - cost per gallon and all - but what was interesting was the part on the theoretical maximum amount of energy that an be wrung out of any technology based ont he amount of sunlight hitting the earth.

And from a PR perspective, the Cape Wind Project was approved to move forward. It's a wind farm off the coast of Massachusetts. The good stuff in this segment is many of the opposing forces and groups called in to get their opinion across. They were solid comments and points of view. The CEO of Cape Wind kept the conversation civil. He was taking the position of, "We won approval. It's moving forward. Thanks for your input."

All three worth a listen on your iPhone, iPad, iPod iEtc...

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Quitting coffee with Data - The Quantified Self

Damn. Give up coffee? I wish I had the discipline this guy has. He quit coffee using data he gathered on his own behavior.

I found this specific article after reading an extensive article in the NY Times called the "Data Driven Life." I dig the concept.

I'm an allergy sufferer. I can sneeze 20-25 times in a row if I don't control it with nettles. Each time I saw a doctor to find relief I was prescribed one of the many drugs - Claritin, Flonase, etc. Beside the side effects of headache, nasal dryness, and dizzy/drowsiness, I was curious to find out what I was so allergic to - what made me sneeze. I always considered an application that would randomly ping me to ask how I felt. I'd note my findings and compare it to location (work or home) and pollen counts in my city.

Never got to the level of notation described in the article. Gotta sneeze. Ah... ah.... bye...

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Worn out phrase comes true - The future is here.

"The future is here."
Too bad the phrase has been worn out by well meaning marketers and companies. Here are two separate articles on 1) a personal helicopter and 2) A Star Trek-like scanner that both show the future we all imagined is coming true. And I know DARPA is working on the flying car...


Dragonfly personal rocket copter: available this year?    via: DVICE

Everything is Illuminated via: The Atlantic

I love this image from CNET

Friday, April 23, 2010

Gary Flake: is Pivot a turning point for web exploration? | Video on

Best insight from this TED video is that "...we can get used to browsing from many things to many things to enable us to see the patterns that emerge."

This is a higher level way to browse. As the speaker, Micorsoft fellow Gary Flake puts it, "a higher level of abstraction." And that helps make patterns, trends, insights more clear.

Gary Flake: is Pivot a turning point for web exploration? | Video on

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

3D 'holographic' display seems to have ripped off patented technology (w/ Video)

Two competing technologies/products for holographic projections. Forget their arguments, and take a look at the two videos. It's coming upon us quickly.

3D 'holographic' display seems to have ripped off patented technology (w/ Video)


Why 'chemical' has become a dirty word

The oxygen we breathe, the water we drink, the sugar we eat are all chemicals, as are the medications we swallow, the cosmetics we apply and the pesticides we spray. But somehow "chemical" has become a dirty word, synonymous with "toxin," and "chemical-free" is now a popular, albeit ridiculous, advertising slogan.
 I enjoyed this article. It opens your mind with logic, and exposes the ugly face of consumer marketing.

Why 'chemical' has become a dirty word

Using Computing Might, Google Improves Translation Tool -

I spent a long time in the translation industry at an agency in Oakland. I know the ins and out of human translation - setting deadlines in one language differs from another as much as their cheese does. My wife is a translator. We often have some lively conversations about the decline in translation rates or about how ad agencies and account teams don't give translation the respect it deserves.

Machine translation is improving, and as this article notes, will never replace humans. But the shear size of Google's computing power certainly helps it along.
Like its rivals in the field, most notably Microsoft and I.B.M., Google has fed its translation engine with transcripts of United Nations proceedings, which are translated by humans into six languages, and those of the European Parliament, which are translated into 23. This raw material is used to train systems for the most common languages.

Using Computing Might, Google Improves Translation Tool -

Monday, April 19, 2010

Top Ten Green Giants

Top Ten Green Giants
 "If the internet boom was a twenty-something billionaire, clean tech is a science teacher with a comb-over."
 Here's a quick read article on GreenTech's list of companies that will most influence the greening of the world. Now remember, you and I can recycle and sort compost in an effort to save the globe. But when Walmart takes it on - with the former leader of the Sierra Club - their shear size means thay can really move the needle.

Via: Greentech Media

Friday, April 16, 2010

Re-Branding of Cap and Trade

 OK folks. We won't accept any increases in taxes by politicians, and they'll almost never take the chance of bringing them up as a solution to our ever increasing economic woes. They think it's political suicide.

But I have seen taxes described by many other names. My favorite is "membership fees." (A great article BTW behind the link.)

Greentech Media posted this piece about the re-branding of cap and trade along the same lines. Call it something else, and maybe we can get a bill passed. To me, a rose will still smell as sweet.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

On Meetings - money waisting, outmoded by chat and youth - 2 articles

OK, I think we all might have heard about the stand-up meetings. Wal-Mart is/as known for these as a way to try to keep meetings short.

Here's a device (article via DVICE) that shows the cost of meetings. This might work as a gag in my old agency, but I don't think management thinks of meetings as costs. I think my manager thought of them as a social device. A way for him to collectively get the pulse of what was going on, to praise those who deserved it, and call to the carpet those needing prodding. Both in front of the group. It said, "This is who we are. We can help each other, or stand on the side. What do you contribute to this agency?" Still many times we were too busy to pay attention and left asking how much dough that cost. Here's one way to find the answer: Cost calculator shows how much $ you're wasting in meetings | DVICE

At the same time, we had a conflict as my agency. We had a few "grandpas" who selectively read email and accepted or ignored meeting requests. This prompted many an meeting to be reshuffled, and many an issue to be resolved in shorter, ad-hoc hallway meetings. The younger side of the agency was fine handling everything via IM and EM even if from a bomb shelter.  So this article better describes the dynamic change going on in companies:
When he worked for a 50-something chief executive, his schedule was crammed with meetings, taking up as many as 30 hours a week. When a new 20-something CEO arrived, meeting time shrank to about 2 hours a week.
Chat and Youth are shortening meetings

Monday, April 12, 2010

'America's Army' Video Game Blurs Virtual War, 'Militainment' : NPR

The Army is using a first person shooter video game they created as a recruitment tool.  Makes sense, right? Kids already have the basic traingin from their own games at home.
"But more importantly, the training costs had already been taken out because you hand these to an 18-year-old and they automatically know how to use it," Singer says.
I love that China thought about banning it. I guess they figured they might learn about the enemy's moves if they allowed it in.

'America's Army' Video Game Blurs Virtual War, 'Militainment' 
via NPR

Friday, April 9, 2010

Heat-conducting plastic has big implications for electronics

I always wondered if the motherboard material would eventually become obsolete for chips as the designs get smaller.

Heat-conducting plastic has big implications for electronics
This process allows plastic to "remain an electrical insulator but conduct heat very efficiently in just one direction, unlike metals, which conduct equally well in all directions. This may make the new material especially useful for applications where it is important to draw heat away from an object, such as computer processors."

Thursday, April 8, 2010

U.S. Biodiesel Lives to See Another Day.

Such a struggle this doing business in America. It's great to see close up how subsidies affect things domestically. Petroleum is still cheap in the "too cheap to measure" sort of way.

U.S. Biodiesel Lives to See Another Day: Tax Credit Back!
 "According to the Department of Energy, in early March, the wholesale price for diesel in the U.S. was around $2.00/gal. This means that biodiesel producers must be able to produce biodiesel at a cost of $1.84/gal to break even with the wholesale cost of diesel, given that biodiesel only contains 92% of the amount of energy as diesel on a btu basis."

Via: Greentech Media 

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

How do flowers know it's Spring?

As it really fees like Spring in the SF Bay Area, this article describes how plants know it's Spring and turn to flowering. Of course it has all kids of ramifications for big agriculture. As they note,
"Eventually, this information can be used for genetic tinkering to alter flowering times, predicted Dubcovsky. This is particularly important in a changing environment, with global climate change."

Via: Mercury News

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

IBM invents Earth-friendly plastic made from plants | Raw Story

More on plants helping us get away from oil. (I noted an article about bio jet fuel earlier.)Now maybe we can get away from plastic.

IBM invents Earth-friendly plastic made from plants | Raw Story


Monday, April 5, 2010

Google's Blogger Template Designer Makes Creating Stylish Websites Easy

Finally a way to move from the standard 15-20 templates that Blogger offers. I'm experimenting with a new design. Let me know if you think the background is too busy.

Google's Blogger Template Designer Makes Creating Stylish Websites Easy

Via: TechEBlog

Friday, April 2, 2010

Water Pebble watches you (and your water usage) in the shower

My wife asked if this tracks more than one user.It doesn't as far as I can tell, but it's a good start to saving water. Showers cost money in heat and water.

Water Pebble watches you (and your water usage) in the shower

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Plant-based fuel is cheap, easy, and ready to power your jet

I can't wait for the breakthrough discovery that leads to plant-based oils. True solar power to propel us. Here's a start.

Plant-based fuel is cheap, easy, and ready to power your jet