Sunday, December 30, 2012

Carbon Tax Works to Make Ireland More Green

Using tax to get people to change behaviors works -- Germany has reached a tipping point with the installation of solar and other renewables by consumers. And using tax to dis-incentivize is not a new idea. Ireland, in the face of economic down-turn, set up taxes on most of the fossil fuels used by homes, offices, vehicles and farms, based on each fuel’s carbon dioxide emissions. While this drove up prices for oil, natural gas and kerosene, the result was reduced usage (economizing, as it were). Household trash is weighed at the curb, and residents are billed for anything that is not being recycled.

But the results are impressive: considered one of the E.U's highest per-capita producers of greenhouse gases, with levels nearing those of the United States, Ireland has seen its emissions drop more than 15 percent since 2008. The Irish love their cars almost as much as Yanks, but being a small country with a large urban population, curbing use is a no-brainer.

Read more here at NYT

Friday, December 28, 2012

High-Speed Rail Gets a Longer Route

In China, the almost-1,500 mile trip from Beijing to Guangzhou now takes almost half the time -- a not-insignificant cut, with the trains reaching upwards of 300kmp on some stretches.

Ministry officials have called the new line “one of the most technically advanced in the world”, and Zhou Li, head of the Ministry’s science and technology department told reporters they had “developed a full range of effective measures to manage safety”, according to Reuters.

Read more here...

But food service is not a priority. Only one food service car, boxed lunches, and high prices. Oh, well, the price of 22 hours reduced to 8. Brown bag it, I guess.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

This Internet Thing Might Just Catch On

Need more proof that the internet changes, well, everything? Again? Still? Not just the internet, but how we get to it -- smart phones and tablet, for example.

Mary Meeker, of Kleiner Perkins Caulfield and Byers, published her latest summary of useful data, the “2012 Internet Trends Year-End Update.”

-- Meeker’s data show 2.4 billion Internet users worldwide, a number that’s still growing eight percent yearly.
-- There are 1.1 billion smartphone subscribers worldwide — but that’s still just 17 percent of the global cellphone market.
-- 29 percent of adults in the U.S. now own either a tablet or an e-reader.
-- Mobile devices now account for 13 percent of worldwide Internet traffic, up from 4 percent in 2010.
-- Mobile app and advertising revenue has grown at an annual rate of 129 percent since 2008, and now tops $19 billion.

Read more at VentureBeat

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Consider Total Cost of Ownership with Cloud Deployments

What are the cost savings associated with a move to the cloud? Sometimes it is not the external costs (readily apparent in the contracts or service level agreements) that unbalance a cloud migration, but the internal costs one seeks to reduce. For example, a reduction in force clearly saves money. But divesting the organization of knowledgeable workers can have long-term detrimental effects. As total-cost-of-owbership includes all direct and indirect costs of owning a particular asset, labor associated with the asset might or might not be captured as a cost center. Further, making a decision to buy services on a pay-as-you-go basis as a capital expenditure, versus operational expenditure, is one way to amortize the use of cloud resources over in-house data center maintenance. Keeping computing off the balance sheet has pros and cons, of course, based on complex financial and strategic goals best managed by a company's board, or an institution's financial controllers, not the IT department. This article sums up a recent U.K. study. In it, we read that the study advises government agencies to ensure they are not locked into a relationship with a cloud vendor beyond the duration of the contract, and to look at any exit costs. If cloud vendors offer multi-tenanted infrastructure services, where clients co-locate their computing cloud with others, then there may be hidden costs, if arrangements change.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Recording... Life... Through the Lens...

Recently controversy surrounded the photographing of a victim of a crime -- in progress. The subject was a man, pushed in front of a New York City subway train. And caught on camera by a bystander. Why he didn't help is the issue of the day. But the fact that a huge number of us walk around with cameras today, and take millions of photos, is the most startling side-effect of smart phones. In this article, Thomas Beller of The New Yorker comments on how parents spend so much effort to be with their children, only to be behind the viewfinder, capturing a moment in digital format. He recognizes that the iPhone fetish itself might contribute,
It has occurred to me that this picture-taking might in some ways be an excuse to touch and pet and hold the iPhone itself, which has a weirdly calming effect on people, as though it were an amulet or maybe a small living animal. I am guilty of all the smartphone sins—in essence, staring at the phone when you should be staring at life.
Beller asks, "Because if you are taking a picture of your children, which is to say if you are holding a camera (in the form of a phone) and snapping a picture, then are you, in that moment, looking at them?" The question, it seems is, should they be "in the moment", in the Buddhist sense? This is the idea one should establish mindfulness in one's day-to-day life maintaining as much as possible a calm awareness of one's bodily functions, sensations or feeling), and our mental state, consisting of thoughts and perceptions.
Many see value in "lifecasting," where every moment is recorded for posterity, or research, or some other use. An auxiliary memory. Or, perhaps the ultimate in social media, an always-on view into your personal life, like Qik, a mobile-based live video-sharing website and two-way video conferencing application that allows users to stream live video from their cell phones to the internet.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Never too early for Xmas gift ideas...

George Takei is, in a word, awesome. His new book, Oh Myyy! (There goes the Internet), is his take on a late middle-aged man embracing with the internet. Of course, this former Star Trek star is, fundamentally, a geek, so we should expect he'd be comfortable in the new media world. From the Amazon description,
How did a 75-year old actor from Star Trek become a social media juggernaut? Why does everything he posts spread like wildfire across the ether, with tens or even hundreds of thousands of likes and shares? And what can other sites, celebrities and companies do to attain his stratospheric engagement levels, which hover or top 100 percent while theirs languish in the single digits?
Takei is a proponent of gay rights, active in politics, and has won several awards and accolades in his work on human rights and Japanese–American relations, including his work with the Japanese American National Museum. His story as an young internee in the shameful WWII camps in the U.S. is worthy in its own right.