Archive for April, 2007

Cheaper Solar power

Solar power is starting to come of age. An article I read inthe Hong Kong Standard, said that industry figures believe that within five years the cost per watt will be below 80 US cents and within 10 years below 50 US cents. Currently solar power is about $3 to $4 per watt. In New Zealand at the moment that average cost of a power bill is about 25-30 NZ cents per kWh. Based on the comments here, we could work out the kWh cost of Solar Power at $1000 for a 1kW system with say an assumed life expectancy of 2 years and operating 12 hours (on average) per day at 11 US cents per kWh, about 16 NZ cents at the moment. I’m not sure if this $1/W includes the cost of a storage system to deal with variable load. Although a visionary approach to this might see community power meshes akin to the modern community wireless network mesh being formed in progressive places.

According to this article the power cost in the US during 2003 is the 5 – 17 US cents per kWh. It would be interesting to further model the costs (loss and capital cost) of modern power generation and even wind/wave generated power when taken into the transmission costs into consideration vs on site generate solar power with a near zero transmission cost.

Massey News Article – Taking nature’s cue for cheaper solar power

He says the green solar cells are more environmentally friendly than silicon-based cells as they are made from titanium dioxide – a plentiful, renewable and non-toxic white mineral obtained from New Zealand’s black sand. Titanium dioxide is already used in consumer products such as toothpaste, white paints and cosmetics. “The refining of pure silicon, although a very abundant mineral, is energy-hungry and very expensive. And whereas silicon cells need direct sunlight to operate efficiently, these cells will work efficiently in low diffuse light conditions,” Dr Campbell says.

“The expected cost is one 10th of the price of a silicon-based solar panel, making them more attractive and accessible to home-owners.”

Solar power breakthrough at Massey

This means teenagers could one day be wearing jackets that will recharge their equivalents of cellphones, iPods and other battery- driven devices.

The breakthrough is a development of the university’s Nanomaterials Research Centre and has attracted world-wide interest already – particularly from Australia and Japan.

Researchers at the centre have developed a range of synthetic dyes from simple organic compounds closely related to those found in nature, where light-harvesting pigments are used by plants for photosynthesis.

“This is a proof-of-concept cell,” said researcher Wayne Campbell, pointing to a desktop demonstration model.

“Within two to three years we will have developed a prototype for real applications. “The technology could be sold off already, but it would be a shame to get rid of it now.”

From slashdot. Some other interesting links: Incredible Growth for Solar Power Industry, and Solar PV: The Path From Niche to Mainstream Supplier of Clean Energy.

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The Power of Babble

I always wondered if ‘growing’ a robot was the best method to archive AI. Wired examine a form of this in The Power of Babble

MIT researcher Deb Roy is videotaping every waking minute of his infant son’s first 3 years of life. His ultimate goal: teach a robot to talk.

The idea was to supplement his robot’s long-term memory with short-term memory. Both would be engaged in pattern recognition, searching speech input for recurring phonemes, but the short-term memory would focus on the recent past . By giving Toco a mild case of ADD, Roy made his robot more like the kids he was trying to emulate. Without the ability to prioritize recent experience, Toco’s search algorithm had been spending valuable time cycling through every phoneme it had ever encountered.

And with the addition of short-term focus? Roy found that Toco could learn much faster if it were allowed to concentrate on the ball or the cup. Taking input directly from the baby lab — raw audio that the machine “hears” by analyzing the sound’s spectrograph — Toco was building an elementary vocabulary. “It caused quite a stir,” Roy says. “This was the first time that a computer took a lot of audio input without a lot of massaging.”

From drunkendata.

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Origami Heads

From a Japanese friend, some new paper folding fun.

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30 Days with Windows Vista

Vista not ready for service just yet: [H] Enthusiast – 30 Days with Windows Vista

Based on my personal experiences with Vista over a 30 day period, I found it to be a dangerously unstable operating system, which has caused me to lose data. The 64-bit version is slightly better (which, frankly, surprised the hell out of us and makes us wonder if Microsoft didn’t make a mistake in choosing to only distribute Home Premium 32-bit in the retail channel), but it still has stability problems.

Any consideration of the fine details comes in second to that one inescapable conclusion. This is an unstable operating system.

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HTC Advantage

The HTC Advantage is a large PocketPC WM5 based system with a magnetic snap-to keyboard.  Potentially could be a interesting, but lack of support for things like Activetcl and Openvpn for my accounting system would make it not so useful as a small portable computer.  It could make a good replacement for a hx4700 as a LIT based ebook reader.  Carrying another power blister around would be a PITA though, so it would probably be good only from home use.

From IT Redux.

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WordPress InstantUpgrade looks like a useful plugin to try.

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WEP Officially useless

From German researchers put final nail in WEP:

 For an idle network that’s being attacked with packet injection, WEP can fall in an average of 52 seconds for 802.11g or 3.5 minutes with 802.11b. But we have to assume the worst, and the cracking can sometimes happen even faster than the average times I listed. What this means is that WEP (even with dynamic key rotation) is officially broken beyond repair.

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Homebrew SSD

This homebrew recipe from Gizmodo via jkontherun puts the OEM SANdisk pricing indicative at $11/GB into perpective.

Using CF cards as IDE disk replacements is quite common for embedded devices, but it is quite clever to devise a method to use this in ‘standard’ computing.

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Sun to fry NetApp with FISH

From the Register, Sun to fry NetApp with FISH:

Sun Microsystems has a near-term NetApp assault in store code-named ‘FISHworks.’The FISH stands for “Fully Integrated Software and Hardware” and comes from work done by some of Sun’s top software engineers over the past year.

The first run of the technology will see Sun bundle Solaris, the ZFS file system, DTrace and a number of other software packages together on a NAS (network attached storage)-like hardware system. Sun hopes to kick NetApp where it hurts, banking on the theory that no one wants a complex, proprietary storage OS in this day and age.

This sounds pretty interesting. I’d probably pay some money for a blackbox software appliance from Sun with zfs, iscsi, cifs (samba) and nfs that just worked and I could install on a given piece of x86 hardware. Unfortunately it’ll probablybe for Sun hardware only, which will likely price it out of a usable range.

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HDTV tips

Some useful tips on buying an HDTV.

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