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Saturday, October 18, 2008

Smart Appliances That Adjust To Power Demands On The Grid

Engineers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have been developing a technology known as "Gridwise" that enables household appliances to adjust themselves on the fly in response to the overall power requirements of the power grid. When the grid is reporting high demand a controller sends orders to the appliances to cease some of the appliance’s high-energy operations that could be temporarily delayed, such as a refrigerator's defrost cycle. Their studies show that the Gridwise system could potentially reduce power requirements by 15%. Check out this video from, my favourite quote is from Pacific Northwest's Rob Pratt, who I envision as somewhat of a Star Wars fan, when he says the the controllers "... sense a disturbence in the power grid all on their own, and they can just take themselves out of action just very temporarily"

Friday, October 17, 2008

Lottery Under Fire For Free Music Download Plan

The provincial lottery corporation in British Columbia (BCLC) is drawing fire from politicians and social activists over a plan that would offer free music downloads to some online gambling players. The scheme seems aimed squarely at young adults and is being seen as a ploy to hook them early. “It does sound like it would be something that would attract the college and university-aged student,” Amanda McCormick, who wrote the report on online gambling for the B.C. Centre for Social Responsibility said. “They are the ones who are probably more likely to be online and be familiar using these downloading programs. So I would think it would definitely encourage those people to visit the site.” While BCLC spokesman Trevor Miller says "It's a bit of a much ado about nothing,” and “We think the idea of having music downloads offers our players another form of excitement. Music is a form of entertainment, as is gaming. We think they kind of go hand in hand. It's something that will give our players a little more excitement to their online experience.” Globe and Mail story.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

YouTube Not A Big Fan Of McCain / Palin Content

It seems that the McCain / Palin camp has hit a brick wall with YouTube / Google. The campaign had asked that YouTube more carefully scrutinize the McCain / Palin advertisements that were being pulled from YouTube because they contained copyrighted materials, mostly news clips from sources like CBS. The McCain team is arguing fair use and wants the ads to remain on YouTube. YouTube's Chief Counsel Zahavah Levine has responded:

"While we agree with you that the U.S. presidential election-related content is invaluable and worthy of the highest level of protection, there is a lot of other content on our global site that our users around the world find to be equally important, including, by way of example only, political campaigns from around the globe at all levels of government, human rights movements, and other important voices. We try to be careful not to favor one category of content on our site over others, and to treat all of our users fairly, regardless of whether they are an individual, a large corporation or a candidate for public office.

The real problem here is individuals and entities that abuse the DMCA takedown process. You and our other content uploaders can play a critical role in helping us to address this difficult problem...You can file counter-notifications. You can seek retractions of abusive takedown notices. You can hold abusive claimants publicly accountable for their actions by publicizing their actions...

We look forward to working with Senator (or President) McCain on ways to combat abuse of the DMCA takedown process on YouTube, including by way of example, strengthening the fair use doctrine..."

G4TV story here.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

US Authorities Shut Down Spamming Operation

The Federal Trade Commission in the United States, with the help of security firm Marshal Software, have won over the courts in Chicago allowing the FTC to freeze the assets of HerbalKing group and promptly shut down the operations. The group is said to have ties to Australia, New Zealand, India, China and the United States and it's estimated that the group controlled 35,000 computers, in a botnet, and could send 10 billion e-mail messages a day. “This is pretty major. At one point these guys delivered up to one-third of all spam,” said Richard Cox, chief information officer at SpamHaus, a nonprofit antispam research group. HerbalKing e-mails have flooded the internet with the promise of cheap knock off watches and a variety of pharmaceuticals, including weight-loss drugs and male anatomy enhancers. According to the New York Times "The group was shipping drugs like Propecia, Lipitor, Celebrex and Zoloft out of India. The F.T.C. also said the group based its Web sites in China, processed credit cards from the former Soviet republic of Georgia and Cyprus, and transferred funds among members using ePassporte, an electronic money network."

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Space Tourist Arrives At International Space Station

A 47-year-old computer game designer Richard Garriott, the son former NASA astronaut Owen Garriott, has arrived at the International Space Station after paying the $30m (£17m) fair for a 10-day trip to the ISS. "Mr Garriott will occupy some of his time taking photos to record how the Earth's surface has changed in the 35 years since his father's voyage." Garriot arrived at the ISS aboard the Soyuz TMA-13 spacecraft carrying a new crew for the ISS, American Mike Fincke and Russian Yuri Lonchakov. I can understand Garriott wanting to follow in his father's footsteps but is there really that much money in designing computer games? BBC Story.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Text Messages From Dumbo

Game wardens and farmers in Kenya have been at odds over elephants that have been raiding villagers' crops, sometimes wiping out a half years worth of income at a time. Villagers used to beat pots and pans and light fires to ward off the massive animals and wardens where at times forced to put the animals down to save the lively hood of the farmers. A new project has collars with embedded cellphone SIM cards being placed on the perpetrators and virtual "geofences" created using a global positioning system. When an animal gets too close to the villages a text message is sent from the collar to the wardens who dispatch a team to divert the animals back to the conservancy. Though costly, the plan has worked and is changing the habits of the pachyderms. The technique is being employed in two Kenyan national conservancies. Besides stopping the raiding of crops the system also helps to track and understand the movement of the beasts and aids in the fight against poaching.

"Elephants are ranked as "near threatened" in the Red List, an index of vulnerable species published by the International Union for Conservation of Nature." CNN/AP story here.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

US Military Charters Kite Powered Ship To Deliver Equipment

While I think the motivation here is strictly cost savings, I'll applaud the choice of the US Navy's Military Sealift Command (MSC) which has chartered the MV Beluga, a "kite-assisted" 400 foot cargo ship, to deliver Air Force and Army equipment from Europe to the US. MV Beluga uses a paraglider-shaped, SkySails-System, which supplements its conventional, internal combustion engines potentially reducing fuel costs by as much as 30 percent, or roughly $1,600 a day. The system utilizes a computer-controlled kite that flies from 100 to 300 yards into the air, using the wind to tow the ship. "MSC values innovation that leads to cost savings," said Captain Nick Holman, of Sealift Logistics Command Europe. CNet Story.