Tue, 29 May 2007

Microsoft Surface:

"Because We Couldn't Build an iPhone Knockoff Small Enough"

"We started trying to add iPhone like interaction on the Zune, but when we realized that would take some real engineering know how to get something this cool into an affordable device that small, we decided 'if you can't make it smaller, it's easier just to make it bigger!'"

In the interest of explaining what Microsoft's marketing speak really means, here's my take on their positioning statement of this revolutionary new concept.

Here's what Microsoft says:
Similar to the way ATMs changed how people got money from the bank, Microsoft is changing the way people will interact with all kinds of everyday content...
What Microsoft means:
Similar to the way cinder blocks changed tender love making, Microsoft is doing absolutely nothing to change the way people will interact with all kinds of everyday content because...
What Microsoft says:
including photos, ...
What Microsoft means:
deciding whether to crop my photos in landscape or portrait is generally a personal decision that doesn't require family, friend, or group input.
What Microsoft says:
music, ...
What Microsoft means:
Buying music at the iTunes Music Store is, and will remain a personal activity, so long as people maintain individual tastes in music (although it might be a hit with binars or something)
What Microsoft says:
a virtual concierge, ...
What Microsoft means:
People will continue to use real concierges because while Chez Gauche's marketing manager might have a boyfriend who is a talented graphic artist who produces snazzy collateral, only a person who has eaten there knows their cook sucks and that the meal to die for in the 5ieme Arrondisement is the Ratatoille at "La Pomme".
What Microsoft says:
... and games.
What Microsoft means:
It's like Monopoly (the game, not our business practices) except instead of $9.95 at your local Target, this will cost a few grand at your local CompUSA and like tables from IKEA, "some assembly required, batteries not included (and yes, it will require you to run an extension cable)".
(I kid you not, their prototypes were made from IKEA tables)

What Microsoft says:
Common, everyday tasks become entertaining, enjoyable and engaging, alone or face-to-face with family, friends or co-workers.
What Microsoft means:
Our lives are like the hollow crysalis a butterfly leaves behind when it flies away, so we were desperate to invent something where you'll spend several grand on a table (which only really goes with the decor in Building 16 ) so you can continue your habit to invest in products which instill a fleeting moment that your life has some kind of meaning.

Sat, 26 May 2007

What's the Fuel of the Future?

I found a neat Flash demonstration of how much CO2 is produced from various fuel types produced by Volvo.

I think there are three types of "environmentally conscious" fuel consumers out there, and this site illustrates them.

The first type are the "dollars per gallon" consumers.
The second type are the "miles per gallon" consumers.
The third type are the "kg of CO2 per km" consumers (or the pounds of CO2 per mile, if you must go with Imperial units).

If you think about it, approaching this from the "dollars per gallon" biases the evaluation on an economic/infrastructure axis.

Why is gas often the cheapest fuel available? Because of the untold billions of dollars of investment and infrastructure that already exists (from oil wells, to pipelines, tankers, refineries, gas stations and vehicles in the marketplace that can use it).

Recently diesel has been looking pretty good. Modern diesels don't pollute much more than gas versions, they get considerably better miles/gallon, and to top it off, diesel costs less than even regular gas does.

What the Volvo simulation shows is how important it is to not only reduce the emissions of what is in your tank, but the emissions of what it took to get it there.

The promising news is that the top best-performing technologies can be reached from investments in lesser technologies. For example, Hydrogen cars can perform near the top or near the bottom of the list, depending on where you get the electricity to produce it-- getting hydrogen cars into the marketplace based on the ubiquity of available electricity and then cracking the nut of getting greater solar or wind power to power them could be a strategy to get a hydrogen infrastructure in place. Similar strategies are available for diesel engines (today they might burn diesel, tomorrow biodiesel).

Check out Volvo's CO2 Comparison and see for yourself.

Wed, 23 May 2007

Dumb and Dumber

I don't know who's dumber. Brian Benson, an eighth-grade student who won first place in his school's "Science Fair", or the morons running this so-called "Science Fair".

According to the Georgetown Times, students at the "Pawley's Island Christian Academy" engaged in a Science Fair.

(That's right, I used "Christian Academy" and "Science Fair" in the same sentence)
[Benson] who won first place in the Life Science/Biology category for his project "Creation Wins!!!," says he disproved part of the theory of evolution.
Ooo! This is going to be good! An 8th grader disproves the masterpiece of Darwin's life's work!

As a quick summary, a simple definition of evolution is "a process that results in heritable changes in a population spread over many generations."

Let's see what Brian, who won the blue ribbon in the Life Science/Biology category was able to prove:
Using a rolled-up paper towel suspended between two glasses of water with Epsom Salts, the paper towel formed stalactites. He states that the theory that they take millions of years to develop is incorrect.

"Scientists say it takes millions of years to form stalactites," Benson said. "However, in only a couple of hours, I have formed stalactites just by using paper towel and Epsom Salts."
Stalactites are not formed using epsom salts, they are formed with calcium carbonate. This is akin to suggesting that a volcanic eruption is caused by deep pockets of vinegar, red food coloring, and baking powder deep beneath the crust. "Look, the lava on my scale model mountain does not burn the skin, so let's all go to Mona Kilauea in Hawaii and soak in the lava!"

Oh, and by the way, last time I checked, Geology was an Earth Science, not a "Life Science/Biology" science.

While this "science project" didn't disprove any part of evolution, nor did it prove any element of creationism, it did prove that religious conservative ignorance is not limited to three Republican candidates for President (Brownback, Huckabee, and Tancredo), but it is alive and well in this "Christian Academy".

Name/Blog: Maelyn
URL: maelyn.arrasmith at_sign gmail.com
Comment/Excerpt: Somehow you manage to make my day, over and over!

Sat, 19 May 2007

It's the Carbon, Stupid!

In my previous blog posts, I hinted at the potential hopelessness of trying to roll back global warming. While it is true that economic growth, with existing energy policies, leaves us in a serious predicament, alternative policies can significantly slow the trend in global warming. Consider this Scientific American article on carbon capture and storage:
But carbon capture and storage will play a key role as coal continues to supply a significant portion of world energy supply and, unfortunately, it has yet to be demonstrated on any power plant anywhere. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has at least 20 pilot projects to investigate it, according to Stephen Eule, DOE's director of the climate change technology program, but none have applied it on a commercial scale. A variety of techniques, including passing the remnants of coal combustion through an ammonium carbonate solution or separating purified CO2 from gasified coal, are possible -- at a cost. "There is no plant that integrates gasification with capture and sequestration," says physicist Ernest Moniz of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who co-chaired a report on the future of coal. But "gasification looks today to be the lowest cost option with carbon capture."
What this means is that our energy plants could produce the energy they are producing today but with substantially fewer CO2 emissions than before. Like nuclear waste, the captured CO2 needs to be contained and stored someplace. One potential answer is to pump it into the cavities from which we extract oil and natural gas. There's more good news:
There are other technologies available, such as using algae to capture the waste greenhouse gases from power plants and turning it into diesel or other fuels. "The amount of CO2 that you capture [with algae] is very high and the amount of biofuel created per acre is incredibly greater than you can do with corn or even sugarcane," Tufts's Moomaw says. "The problem is it only works in the daytime." Alternative forms of power production, such as wind or solar, remain a small -- albeit fast-growing—portion of world electricity supply. Even nuclear power is unlikely to play a major role in fighting climate change. "By 2030, we might be seeing something around 18 percent of power being generated by nuclear rather than the 16 percent we see today," Moomaw adds. "There are so many issues around nuclear power, we don't see it as being the answer to global warming and the electricity sector."
So, use the CO2 to feed algae, which in turn create biofuel through photosynthesis, which in turn can be used in increasing amounts to fuel vehicles. This is basically the equivalent of "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle" applied to CO2 generation.

But, as I've said before, it's not sufficient just to cut back on the rate of CO2 emissions, we need to reduce net CO2 emissions on a global scale to a level we were only producing decades ago. The good news is that there are two ways to actively absorb atmospheric CO2 (not just to reduce our emissions of it) that you and I can actively engage in.

The first is reforestation. Each tree planted is estimated to consume one ton of CO2 in its lifetime putting O2 back into the atmosphere. Plant a tree in your back yard, or donate to someone who will: Plant a Tree Today American Forests.

The second is to shift your consumption towards organic products. Traditional farming practices have a net CO2 generation effect, but organic farming (i.e. no-till, residue mulching, cover cropping, grass-fed free-range meat, and crop rotation) have a neutral effect on atmospheric CO2.

Another method to reduce atmospheric CO2 is to encourage oceans to act as more effective CO2 sinks (such as the Southern Ocean which in recent news was shown to be losing its ability to absorb carbon dioxide). When oceans can't absorb CO2, it discourages plankton growth and starts to undermine the ecosystem of the ocean. Doing so means adding iron oxide or iron sulfate to the water to stimulate plankton growth, but this is a drastic measure that we hopefully won't have to resort to.

Thu, 17 May 2007

Quick Hits

I've neglected to blog recently, and rather than go and backdate posts like some people I know (which screws up my RSS feeder by the way), I'm just going to provide a quick summary of the goings on.

First, photography is becoming a primary hobby of mine. I'm finding my physics/optics knowledge is playing well to my understanding of photography, so I've been taking a lot of pictures.

Hence, Christine and I are finding more and more events to go to and cover. I mentioned the Johnette Napolitano and Noah Stone concert I went to. I also mentioned I bought Noah's Stone's album, but because of a mistaken shipping address, it got sent to the wrong address. When I asked Noah if he had sent the CD yet (how cool is this?) he just sent me another one to my correct address, and told me to give the other one away if I ended up getting it. I called the tenant in my old condo, and sure enough, he got it. I gave the CD to a friend at work under the condition that "if you like it, you have to tell someone about Noah".

On Sunday, May 6th, Christine and I got up early to go to the Seattle Art Museum's grand re-opening. We literally got up at 7:30am and drove into Seattle. We were browsing exhibits by 8:30am, and visited and took photographs of Pike Place and left right after lunchtime.

Otherwise, last Friday May 11th, we ended up going to the Mariners game in Seattle. Turns out it was the same night Blake Lewis (of American Idol fame) was singing the National Anthem. Sadly, horrendous Seattle traffic made us miss everything but the "and the home of the brave". Still it was a decent game, and I took some pictures of Ichiro at bat and fellow co-workers with my 70-300mm zoom lens.

On Sunday, we surprised Christine's mom down in Vancouver by greeting them right outside the movie theater where they had gone to see Spider Man 3. I took some pictures around the house while we waited for the family to gather, including some macro photography (handheld, didn't bring my tripod) of some of the flowers and leaves.

In other news, I was elated to hear that Comcast is dropping the shite that is the Microsoft DVR software which apparently only scourges those of us in Washington state. It's about time!

Finally, Gavin suggested checking out My Google Maps. This is precisely what I wanted to do for our upcoming European vacation, but I hadn't yet done the research to find out who (yahoo, msn, google) offered such route planning features on their respective mapping apps. I created one for Paris day 1 and Paris day 2. Stay tuned for Barcelona day 1, and Madrid day 1.

Name/Blog: rus
URL: http://rus.berrett.org/blog/
Title: some people
Comment/Excerpt: usage: touch [-t [[CC]YY]MMDDhhmm[.SS]] file ... w00t!

Name/Blog: Khan Klatt
Title: yes, I know
Comment/Excerpt: I actually blogged about that command here, so I'm aware of it. Problem is, backdating posts screws up my RSS reader if you don't use the exact same timestamp that you're publishing in your XML. I've been thinking of digging into the blosxom code to change the article ordering to be based on article creation date, not modification date, and sharing it with you (my fellow backdater). (Although unlike you, I only backdate my posts when I realize I made a typo)

Name/Blog: Khan Klatt
Comment/Excerpt: Meh, it looks like I strip HTML from comments. "here" was linked to http://www.khan.org/blog/index.cgi/2005/07/27#unix_tips

Mon, 07 May 2007

Noah Stone Grows On You

As I mentioned earlier, I went to see Noah Stone open for Johnette Napolitano last Friday.

At the show, we picked up Johnette's CD. It was a no-brainer. Christine has been listening to her music for two decades, and me for the better part of that. It's also a pre-release, which means you can't get a copy until later this month.

And while Noah gave a great performance (I previously mentioned on my flickr photostream how he's a one man band on the stage), I'm not a big fan of the "Unplugged" genre of music (unless they're basically the golden standard of the genre-- like Cat Stevens or James Taylor), which is how, for better or worse, his music came across to me on concert night.

In the meantime, however, having visited his myspace page (Noah Stone at Myspace) and hearing the studio-recorded versions of his songs, I'm really digging it. Take "Man Behind the Glass" for example, one of my favorites I've been unable to get out of my head these past couple days. It's one of those songs you wish you could put on repeat and crank the volume to 11.

It kicks off with a bluesy guitar riff, John Mayer style, with a few layered guitar licks peppered throughout. Taking a page from the "Tom Petty" book of songwriting-- "All I have is a red guitar, three chords and the truth" -- this is a simple tune that gives you some soulful guitar licks with a catchy chorus hook. (While there are more than three chords, there are certain progressions that are reminscent of Tom Petty's "Into the Great Wide Open")

Just as compelling are "Casualties of Love", "My Green Eyes", "Little Revolution", and "Paula" (the latter of which sounded a bit Paul Simonesque to me).

To top it all off, he's exceedingly nice, a talented photographer, and a pioneer of online musician's rights. (Noah Stone's Flickr Photostream). If you happen to be on the east coast and looking for a great show to see, tour dates are listed on his blog (Noah Stone's Blog).

(No, I was not paid a fee for this promotion, in fact, I just bought his CD :-p)

Sat, 05 May 2007

Johnette Napolitano

IMG 1241 Christine and I went to see Johnette Napolitano at the Triple Door in Seattle Friday night. It was an awesome show, great music, and good food (from Wild Ginger, upstairs). I brought my camera and since flash wasn't allowed, and I was sitting at least 50 feet away, I ended up taking hundreds of pictures in the hopes that some of them would come out blur-free. My favorite one is this one of Johnette.

Opening for her was Noah Stone. While neither of their new albums have been widely released, Johnette has a single called "Amazing" available, and I'm told both of them will eventually be available on iTunes.

The full photo stream is available here.

Thu, 03 May 2007

Wine Tasting Galore

This past weekend, Christine and I, with our friend Kat, spent a couple days in the Yakima valley doing some wine tasting.

Highlights of the trip: Identifying no less than ten of our new favorite wines, absorbing the scenery of the Yakima valley, and taking pictures of nearly anything photogenic.

Check out the pictures at my flickr page.

Khan Klatt

Khan Klatt's photo