Friday, April 11, 2008

DF Splash - Home Theater quality video over the Internet

The demo is here, the demo is here! Pop your popcorn and pull up a desk chair.

Digital Fountain's DF Splash streaming video CDN (VCDN? VDN?) makes a real TV quality experience possible over the Internet using DF's forward error correction technology.

The demo is stunning, particularly on a wide screen monitor with a good set of speakers. At the moment, the demo is only available on Windows XP using a client software download, with a minimum of 1.5Mbs broadband connection (check the minimum requirements on their web site).

DF Splash is running on Amazon Web Services infrastructure and delivers a flawless video transmission to my computer more than 4,000 miles away from US shores. The video quality of P2P video services (at least the ones that I have seen) pales in comparison to the full motion, TV quality picture from DF Splash.

DF Splash is in beta and is offering free 90 day trials of streaming video to content owners. The demo has only been up for a few days, so there is only a smattering of posts about people's experience with the demo, so give the demo a spin and let me know what you think. Thanks.


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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Clocks: Lightning Alarm Clock Gets You Out of Bed at Lightning Speed - Gizmodo
Another loony alarm clock to try to get you out of bed that much more reliably... though you wouldn't want to smack the thing as a result of an instinctive hit the snooze bar maneuver.

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Friday, August 17, 2007

The Looting of Patagonia Has Begun, Say Chile Dam Opponents - Worldpress.org 

The Looting of Patagonia Has Begun, Say Chile Dam Opponents - Worldpress.org

The latest article from The Santiago Times about the rush of hydro projects targeting rivers in Chilean Patagonia. The Aysen Project, if it goes ahead will pave the way for further devastation of Patagonian wilderness.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Follow up to the Elevator Technology post below

Funny thing is that my wife now works in a high tech building in Prague with this same system. Reportedly it is only the second such elevator system in the world.

In addition to the usability bug mentioned in Joel's blog (the receptionists in her building don't tell visitors about the system!), she has some other experiences:

1. The computer system crashed a few days ago, resulting in complete chaos. There are 9 elevators in this "smart" elevator bank, so in order to get on one without the instructions from the central computer, you had to position yourself in the middle in a race-starting crouch position, listen keenly for the chime and make a run for it-- literally. Then, you had to wait until the elevator happened to open its doors on a floor near yours (and depending on your patience, walk up or down the stairs a couple of floors). Getting out of the building required waiting for an elevator too because the exit from the stairs is locked. Mind you that there are floor buttons in the elevators, they are just not functional. Wouldn't you think that if there was a fault in the central computer, that the logical approach would be to default to the buttons in the elevator instead of sending elevators on a random pattern?

2. The elevators are programmed to be efficient, so at rush hour, the elevator waits until it is optimally full before departing for it's optimized route. Sometimes this process can take minutes, so the clever (and impatient) elevator riders have taken to kicking past the door sensors 5 or 6 times until the elevator "thinks" it's full.

3. Scooting into a closing elevator the other day, my wife thought, "well, these elevators are so high tech, they must have sensitive door sensors." So, as the doors are beginning to close, she steps in-- only to be crushed like a nut by the doors-- the bone bruise on her arm still hurts 4 days later.

Maybe there is a reason that there are only two of these systems installed in the world...

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Monday, June 11, 2007

New elevator technology
This item ran on the Joel on Software homepage on Monday, April 30, 2007
I had a chance to visit 7 World Trade Center today, the newest office high rise to open in New York.

Instead of having up and down buttons outside the elevators, there's a numeric keypad, where you key in the floor number you're going to. Then an LED display tells you which elevator to wait for. Once you get in the elevator, you don't have to press any buttons (and there are none to press).

This is more efficient than the old system, in which two people who were going to the same floor might have taken separate elevators, adding an unnecessary trip. Presumably, during the early morning rush, it is able to clump people going to nearby floors into the same elevator, thus getting more people to their destinations faster by intelligently optimizing elevator schedules on-the-fly, instead of letting any arbitrary person force any arbitrary elevator to take them to any arbitrary floor.

Can you guess the usability bug?

People who aren't used to the new system come into the lobby and see an elevator with an open door. They jump into it, and then get stuck going to some random floor because they can't key in their destination once they're inside. (end)

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Patagonia Times - Patagonia News - DAM OPPONENTS ASK GOVT TO REPSECT 1992 WATER TREATY 


Interesting article on the Patagonia dam controversy. Sounds like the treaty of 1992 should be involved in the process:

“In the case of shared waterways,” the 1992 treaty reads, “the use of water resources in the territory of one (of the two countries), must not in any way harm their shared water resources, a common waterway or the environment…The actions and projects involving the use of the shared water resources must be carried out in a coordinated or joint manner via general use plans.”

There is no doubt that the dams would harm the environment. I am not sure what "general use plans" involve, but unfortunately I would guess that Argentina would not be opposed to the Aysen dam project since they could potentially benefit from the proximity to the energy. I would guess that Endesa has studied the 1992 treaty carefully and would expect to gain Argentine support by diverting a small fraction of the generated energy to Argentina.

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

Dress Impression with Drapery by Karen LaMonte [Martin Polak]

Check out this podcast with an interview with Karen LaMonte talking about her artwork. Her exhibition "Absense Adorned" at the Museum of Glass in Tacoma was spectacular. Karen's life sized cast glass dresses sculptures are both monumental and intimate, treading delicate lines between interior and exterior, presence and absence, naked and clothed, confident and vulnerable. Photographs do not do justice to Karen's work (no matter how expertly photographed), so do try to see her work in person to get the full effect.

The podcast was produced by the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, Washington where Karen's cast glass sculptures were exhibited. ( http://www.museumofglass.org/exhibitions/absence-adorned/ ). Karen LaMonte's website can be found at www.karenlamonte.com

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Flying Alarm Clock

flying alarm clock gadget

From HotGuyGadgets.com on Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Are you one of those guys who oversleep because you keep hitting the snooze button over and over? I might have found the perfect alarm clock for you. The reason I say might is from personal experience. There is a certain person I live with that believes the Flying Alarm Clock is a torture device. This alarm will harass you until you get up. If you have a temper like hers, you might want to skip this, or perhaps buy a second one to have on hand after you smash the first one. They cost forty bucks a pop, but if you are on shaky ground at work or school because of tardiness, it very well could be worth it.

When the alarm is triggered it launches a rotor up to 9 foot into the air that flies around the room as the alarm sounds. The alarm clock will sound every seven minutes until the piece is placed back on the alarm base. You will have to get up, hunt for the piece and put the piece back on the alarm. Trust me, once you do this, you will be awake.

The Flying Alarm Clock has an easy to read LCD, and a six-button control panel for ease of programming. It features a lifetime warranty, but is not covered if your enraged girlfriend throws it out the second story window, then runs over it with her Toyota Camry. She really is not a morning person!

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Slashdot | New Jersey Turnpike As a Power Source? 

From Slashdot: New Jersey Turnpike As a Power Source?
'New Jersey, home of the eponymous Jersey barrier, is considering wind turbines powered by the breeze generated from traffic on the Jersey Turnpike. The wind turbines won't be built on the side of the highway. They will be built inside — what else? — the Jersey barriers. By replacing sections of solid concrete with Darius turbines, they might be able to harvest enough energy to power a light-rail line.'

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Fring update (see review below)

While I still stand by the enthusiasm of my initial Fring VoIP application review, I need to update my review since Fring seems to have been too much for my phone. I think they still have some memory management issues (hey, it is a beta). The timing may be a coincidence, but after uninstalling Fring, my E70 simply stopped working and required a firmware upgrade and a total fresh start. Though I was keen on the Fring functionality, I can't afford to risk normal functioning of my phone for now, so I have not reinstalled it. Bottom line: make sure you have a full backup before testing new applications.

What I'd really like is an efficient Skype client on my E70. I guess I'll keep waiting...

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

An early (and small) victory in the fight to save Patagonia

The Endesa project will inevitably commission another impact study, so please consider supporting the efforts to oppose this environmental disaster in the making. Here is a link to the Biogems page (NRDC) and a little summary of the latest news from their website. Thanks for your time. Now, we return to our regularly scheduled gadget programming...


"Far to the south, Chilean environmental officials have rejected a deeply flawed study of the impacts of a proposed hydroelectric dam in one of Patagonia's most pristine areas. The officials announced their decision less than a week after receiving more than 10,000 protest messages from BioGems Defenders. In March, NRDC BioGems advocates joined Ecosistemas -- one of our main partner groups there -- and the internationally renowned Chilean rock musician Beto Cuevas on an expedition to the region. They met with environmental leaders and local community activists and visited Chile's biggest river, the Baker, which has been targeted for two dams by the country's largest utility. "


From the Santiago Times:


(March 30, 2007) Representatives from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), an influential U.S.-based environmental group that is opposing plans to build large hydroelectric dams on several Region XI rivers, spent this week on a fact-finding mission in southern Chile.

On Tuesday the NRDC team – headed by International Programs Director Jacob Scherr – met in Coyhaique with a wide range of local dam opponents, among them leaders of the Citizen Coalition for Aysén Life Reserve (CCARV), representatives from the National Organization of Young Tehuelches and Aysén Bishop Luis Infanti.

During the meeting, Scherr, a senior environmental attorney, reiterated his organization’s support for the mounting anti-dam campaign, pointing out that Region XI – an area also known as Aysén – is recognized on a global level as one of the planet’s great natural resources. Scherr also insisted that before making decisions about whether to approve the proposed dam projects, Chilean authorities should take into account both local input and alternative energy sources.

Joining the NRDC delegation on the week-long foray was veteran ecologist Juan Pablo Orrego, head of the Santiago-based environmental organization Ecosistemas, and Beto Cuevas, front man for the Grammy-winning pop-rock group La Ley. Earlier this month the two collaborated in an NRDC-sponsored information tour in California, where Cuevas currently makes his home (ST, March 2, March 20).

It’s important, Cuevas explained, for people in Chile to realize that the plans to construct dams in Aysén are still very much pending. “The companies, with their strong lobby, give off the impression that it’s already decided. Almost everyone, therefore, considers it a done deal,” he said. “My goal is to take advantage of my celebrity as a musician to inform the people otherwise.”

The pristine Aysén region of northern Patagonia, in many ways Chile’s “last frontier,” boasts some of the only remaining virgin wilderness left on the planet. Home to numerous unique plant and animal species – huemules (South Andean deer), Araucaria (Monkey Puzzle trees) and Alerce (a South American cousin of the Redwood), to name a few – Aysén also has some of Chile’s biggest rivers.

Which is why the country’s largest utility company, Endesa, has by its own admission been eyeing the region for the past 40 years. Those powerful, glacier-fed waterways, the company calculates, represent a windfall of potential electricity.

Now, with the country’s supply of natural gas (used for electricity production) threatened by ongoing availability problems in neighboring Argentina, and with domestic electricity consumption growing at an alarming 6.8 percent-year, the time is finally right, according to Endesa, to begin tapping Aysén’s vast water resources.

In collaboration with Colbún, another of Chile’s major energy companies, Endesa is working on its so-called Aysén Project. By far the biggest hydroelectric venture in the country’s history, the Aysén Project is a US$ 4 billion plan to build two dams on each of the region’s two largest rivers: the Baker and the Pascua. Together the dams are expected to produce an estimated 2,400 MW, equivalent to about 30 percent of the energy currently available in central Chile.

A Swiss mining company called Xstrata has also presented plans for an Aysén dam. Earlier this year Xstrata – formerly Falconbridge – submitted an Environmental Impact Study (EIS) for a US$600 million, 600 MW hydroelectric dam it plans to construct on the Cuervo River (ST, Jan. 5). Just last week, however, the regional office of Chile’s National Environmental Commission (CONAMA) announced that as it stands, the company’s EIS is insufficient. In order to proceed with the plan, the Xstrata must now go back to the drawing board, conduct more research, and resubmit its EIS – a process that according to the CCARV, could take as long as a year (ST, March 22).

“This is a zone with huge hydroelectric potential that has been studied for more than 40 years, going back to the time when Endesa Chile was state-owned,” HidroAysén, a joint entity formed by Endesa-Colbún, explained in written statement.

“Its development is closely linked to Chile’s medium and long-term energy needs. We’re using a renewable and competitive resource that’s clean and available domestically. (Also) the Baker and Pascua Rivers basin is much more stable than two located in the central part of the county, which allows for energy production that is not as subject to the arbitrary nature of seasons and the climate.”

Opponents, nevertheless, argue that the dams would be environmentally devastating. Not only would they involve widespread flooding, but they also call for building a 2,000-kilometer transmission line – the world’s longest – that would literally cut through acres upon acres of both protected and unprotected wilderness area (ST March 14).

“There are a ton of alternatives,” CCARV activist Peter Hartmann recently told the Santiago Times. “One option is smaller scale hydroelectric alternatives, in which there are a lot of megawatts available. (Those potential megawatts) also happen to be located much closer to where they’re needed. There are a lot of megawatts available in wind energy, which could also be generated closer to where the energy’s needed.

“Why don’t the mines that are earning billions of dollars with the high price of copper invest some of that money and generate their own solar energy, up there in the north, instead of waiting for Endesa to come here and then transport the electricity 2,000 kilometers? That’s just crazy. It’s the most unsustainable thing imaginable” (ST, Feb. 28).

By Benjamin Witte (benwitte@santiagotimes.cl)

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Thursday, April 05, 2007

Engineers create 'optical cloaking' design for invisibility

This is pretty wild- the idea is to bend light around an object such that the observer sees the projected image of the backgound instead of the object being cloaked. The invisibility cape is coming! Ok, so it still only works on one wavelength of light (namely red today), but they are working on a version which will work on all visible wavelengths. They say it is theoretically possible and that the size of the cloaking could be arbitrarily large - the size of a person or aircraft for example. How cool would it be to be able to cloak skyscrapers or power lines? Now, if they could only just work on getting the Star Trek transporter to work...

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Patagonia Under Siege from NRDC: OnEarth Magazine, Fall 2006

patagonia waterfall - endangered

Chile is moving ahead with a devastating and short-sighted hydro power project that will scar one of the last truly wild landscapes on earth. OK, they are not planning on submerging 1,200 villages, but the destruction of the natural habitat of Chilean Patagonia will be permanent and constitute a real loss for the planet. The glaciers, lakes, and wild rivers are a real natural treasure, despite showing the scars of the the misguided "colonization" policies of the early 20th century that led to the wholesale burning and destruction of primeval forests. Please consider supporting efforts to prevent this looming devastation. Thanks.

Here is a link to the Patagonia (company) Environmental Activisim page

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Patagonia dam project looming

Wednesday's decision by CONAMA was just the latest twist in an ongoing battle surrounding not just the Cuervo River plan, but also the much larger Aysén Project.

By far the biggest hydroelectric venture in the country's history, the US$ 4 billion Aysén Project is a joint endeavor being developed by two of Chile's principal utility companies: Endesa and Colbún. The two companies, now working under the name HidroAyén, plan to build two dams on each of the region's two largest rivers: the Baker and the Pascua. Together these dams are expected to produce an estimated 2,400 MW, equivalent to about 30 percent of the energy currently available in central Chile.

Opponents of the Xstrata and HidroAysén projects - among them local activists and environmentalists, the influential U.S.-based Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and even famous rock star Beto Cuevas (ST, March 20) - insist the dams would be environmentally devastating for the pristine region.

The Aysén Project, for example, not only calls for flooding approximately 93 square kilometers of wilderness, but will also require the construction of a 2,000-kilometer transmission line - the world's longest - that would literally cut through acres upon acres of both protected and unprotected wilderness area (ST, March 13).

"Beyond what's being said about the Cuervo River project," the CCARV stated, "what's clear is that having dams, reservoirs and a high-tension power line crossing all of Patagonia, is and will always be bad business for Aysén and the country as a whole."

This story was originally published with the permission of The Santiago Times - www.santiagotimes.cl

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Friday, March 23, 2007

Coldwell Banker's Second Life - Mar. 23, 2007 

Coldwell Banker's Second Life - Mar. 23, 2007

Embassies, now real estate companies. Will be interesting to see what the housing bubble looks like in 3D. . . sub-prime second life mortgages, anyone? Thanks to David Kirkpatrick at Fortune for picking this up.

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