Australia Bans Incandescent Lights

With all the concern about the environment increasing lately, Australia has taken a step toward energy savings by passing a ban on incandescent light bulbs. The entire country must use alternatives, such as compact florescent. The ban will come into full effect in three years.

I've been phasing in full-spectrum compact florescent bulbs as my existing incandescent bulbs burn out for some time now. The jury's out as far as I'm concerned on power savings and the bulb's lifetime, but if that's the direction everything's headed, why not be an early adopter on this one?

Posted on February 20, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Pirates? Sonic Weapons?

This story is too interesting to pass up mentioning. Apparently pirates, which are more common than one might think nowadays, attempted to board the wrong cruise ship recently. The result was that they got blasted by a high power LRAD weapon which may have repelled their attack .

From the AP article:

The Seabourn Spirit had a Long Range Acoustic Device, or LRAD, installed as a part of its defense systems, said Bruce Good, a spokesman for Miami-based Seabourn Cruise Line. The Spirit was about 100 miles off Somalia when pirates fired rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns as they tried to get onboard.

The subsidiary of Carnival Corp. was investigating whether the weapon was successful in warding off the pirates, he said. The ship's captain also changed its course, shifted into high speed and headed out into the open sea to elude the pirates, who were in two small boats, he said. He had no further details.


Posted on November 11, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Gas prices rising, time to conserve

Okay, so the headline is deceiving in that the time to conserve fuel  supplies has been around for a long time now and will not go away. But the point is, the major media coverage of rising gas prices, at least in my area, hasn't really begun to hit on conservation until now.

But the message is clear: Labor Day weekend is here, when prices traditionally rise to take profit from increased demand generated by the three-day weekend. Hurricane Katrina disrupts our already tight fuel supply. The federal stockpile has been tapped. Critical fuel pipelines are not operating. Prices are rising and there's no end in site.


What can we do? The obvious response is to find ways of driving less.

  • Combine multiple errands into single trips whenever possible.
  • Anybody that can telecommute, ought to make a habit of doing so. It's always been a good idea, and the case for working from home is becoming more and more compelling with every penny increase at the pump.
  • Stay in! Instead of driving to the movies or to an amusement park, read a book, rent a movie at home, play boardgames, etc.  Warning: the side-effect for families might be increased bonding and enhanced relationships!
  • Carpool.
  • Short trips can be taken on foot or by riding your bike. Side effect: increased fitness and enjoyment of outdoors.

In situations where you can't drive less, optimize your driving:

  • In multiple-car families, swap cars so the most efficient car does most of the traveling.
  • Adjust your driving behaviors to maximize your car's fuel economy (see below)
  • Calibrate! Calculate the mileage you actually get under different test conditions. I've been able to determine just how to drive my car in order to get almost a 5 mile-per-gallon (highway) boost in fuel economy through careful measurement.
  • Keep your vehicle's maintenance up-to-date.

Recommended driving behaviours (Source:

  • Observe the Speed Limit: Gas mileage decreases rapidly at speeds above 60 mph.
  • Remove Excess Weight
  • Avoid Excessive Idling (zero miles per gallon!)
  • Use Cruise Control
  • Use Overdrive Gears
I highly recommend visiting the US Department of Energy Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Fuel Economy Site to learn more about how you can save money and protect the environment.

Posted on September 1, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Six degrees of SoBig, or Worms --> Social Software

Increasingly common these days are the worms and virii that find prospective hosts by scanning
an infected host's Outlook address book for e-mail addresses. The most recent, of course, is SoBig.F,
the current worm du jour that's causing many a headache throughout the IT industry. SoBig
will not only scan an address book for its intended victims, but it goes one step further
to forge its own from: address to appear as though it's coming from someone you know.

In essence, this helps conceal the worm's angle of attack by making it appear to come from somewhere
that it has not.

While sifting through the hundreds of return e-mails I have been receiving from mail servers
across the globe, saying that I am infected and that my computer has been sending out copies of
the worm, I realized that since I'm not really infected this means that these people/servers sending me
warnings are one degree separated from me in the social network: they are in the address book of someone
who also has my address in their book. Essentially, they could be thought of as friends of friends.

My imagination took off. What if the worm was controlled, or at least monitored, by an overseeing intelligence
of some kind. If each copy reported its activities back to a central machine, for instance, that machine
could build an immense database which maps a huge portion of the social network that's layered on top of the
Internet (something that's being attempted, albeit in an above-the-board way, by Friendster).

Social Profiling

Imagine, just imagine, what could happen if such a database existed. For the sake of argument, we'll say you're
searching an online book merchant for the latest from Stephen Hawking. In the midst of your results,
the site mentions in a sidebar: "Books that your friends have been reading" along with a few suggestions. Scary stuff.

That's just one of the more benign ideas I've pondered. How about out-and-out social marketing. Prospective
customer X has received your mailer, and countless e-mail offers, and never responded. Well how about e-mailing
some of her buddies and associates: "Receive 10% off selected merchandise when _your friend_ places an order".

And of course, no discussion of social profiling could possibly be complete (though this one remains far from
complete anyway) without mentioning DARPA's Total Information Awareness, where your credit card purchases
could be linked with other consumer data to decide whether or not you're an unsavory character worthy of
surveilance. As far as I know, their plan stopped way short of its potential. With proper data, they could track
who is in your local social network, and link what THEY are buying as a group, which could be useful
in ferreting out terrorist cells who divide responsibilities instead of relying on the idea that one
individual would be the "purchasing agent" for the cell.

Are these possibilities all bad? You might be surprised to find that I'm not sure. While I advocate
and treasure my privacy, I recognize that public vs. private life is a tough distinction to make sometimes.
Maybe people are "leaking" data -- and rather than asking nicely for observers to stop observing and correlating,
we should instead be watching the watchers, and also making sure to prevent "data leakage" from the private
sphere into the public. How could I be irritated at a computer tracking where I shop for clothes, when
anybody I ever meet face-to-face can easily recognize the Express/Gap/whatever logo on my jeans? On the other hand,
there's only so much that one person could do with that bit of information, but large corporations have greater
ability to use and abuse simple facts.

Posted on August 25, 2003 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack