mm346: All together now: Ewwwwwwww!

April 13, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

Encountered this at lunch last week; it became a formidable challenge to finish (the story / the lunch: pick one!). Consider yourself warned, faithful reader, should you be snacking on some luscious sweet or casserole while perusing this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere©.

And remember, this comes not from some fringe or undocumented source, and also remember, April Fool’s day was some time ago.

bw_255x65

Surgery Without the Slicing

Going in through existing orifices is good for patients and device makers, less so for doctors and hospitals

by Catherine Arnst | Business Week Sci Tech April 3, 2008, 5:00PM EST

On Mar. 11 Jeff Scholz, a 42-year-old former U.S. Marine, developed severe abdominal pain. It wasn’t as bad as the gunshot wound to the leg he suffered while in the service, but it kept him doubled over for most of the night. At the insistence of his fiancée, he went to the emergency room at the University of California at San Diego med center the next morning, where he learned his appendix was inflamed and had to come out. That’s how Scholz, the owner of a wholesale clothing company, ended up making medical history. He’s the first patient in the U.S. to have his appendix removed through his mouth.

Read the rest of this entry »


mm345: Cellphone: Bootstrap for the 21st Century

April 12, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

In this short attention span world, it’s an extraordinary story that commands one’s S.A.S. for eight full pages. This is that extraordinary story. It’s an investment, faithful reader, for which yr (justifiably) humble svt hopes you’ll take the plunge.

cellphonepoverty

We last tackled the relationship between technology and the developing world some time ago in a post worth re-savoring (well, I did!).

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mm278a: [Repost] Don’t look back: Something may be gaining on you.

February 8, 2008

MUDGE’S Musings

Found a video that I had seen, along with zillions of others, some time ago, but it gained fresh context when connected to a recent briefing in the best magazine on the planet, The Economist.

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mm267: XO: A missionary position

January 27, 2008

l-hc

MUDGE’S Musings

olpc7926

Interest continues in the One Laptop Per Child initiative. As faithful reader recalls, this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere©‘s interest in the subject continues, also. Here’s where we’ve been:

One Laptop Per Child @ L-HC

mm088: Meet the XO
mm089: Amateur mapmaking…
mm099: A $99 Desktop…
mm149: India’s take…
mm153: By a Laptop, Get one…
mm162: Laptop with a Mission
mm170: Technology and Ed …
mm179: OLPC for India after all?
mm189: OLPC cranks up!
mm203: OLPC: News; discouraging word
mm212: Cheap computing…
mm219: OLPC — Harvard speaks
mm232: Li’l green laptops a hit in Peru
mm247: OLPC — reviews are coming in
mm249: OLPC – News, and a review

Read the rest of this entry »


mm262: Making the world better, one wall wart at a time

January 22, 2008

MUDGE’S Musings

It’s back! SASB©. Three recent looks at technology in today’s and tomorrow’s world.

shortattention_thumb2 ©

Wall wart? That’s the affectionate term for those transformers that power so many of today’s electronics. And even if we turn off the computer or the printer that’s plugged into one, if we leave the transformer in the wall, it’s drawing power and wasting energy.

But there are people out there with a better mousetrap – er, wall wart.

“We’re talking about the exact same principle as replacing incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent ones,” he said from Phoenix. “If our products were built into all consumer electronics — computers, flat-screen TVs, cellphones — we could save 800 million pounds of carbon emissions.”

Turns out that while we’ve been wringing our hands over greenhouse gases and energy wastefulness, technology has been pecking away at the issues.

In spite of ourselves, carbon emissions have only grown at half the speed of the growth of the world’s economy.

Now it’s a matter of having the will (and the capital) to apply the technology and start banking the benefits.

washingtonpost

A Big Drop In Emissions Is Possible With Today’s Technology

By Doug Struck | Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, January 21, 2008; Page A06

… Technological societies are constantly striving to create ways of doing things more efficiently. Advances in efficiency in the past 30 years have led carbon emissions to grow only half as fast as the world’s economy, according to Robert Socolow, a Princeton University engineer. But those savings have been offset by the rise in population and consumption.

From personal observation, we know the truth of the following:

On a broader scale, the mundane trappings of our modern life are becoming more efficient. Household appliances, including the thirstiest of them, furnaces and air-conditioners, have steadily diminished their energy consumption in the past three decades. Today’s new kitchen refrigerators, for example, use 70 percent less power than those made in the 1970s.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

A Big Drop In Emissions Is Possible With Today’s Technology – washingtonpost.com

Compact fluorescent bulbs, which as it happens, are an interim technology (and I don’t know why this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere© didn’t give Philips Electronics LED lighting a story of its own!), are gradually replacing every conventional light bulb casa MUDGE, and in households nationwide. What did it take?

The government didn’t have to legislate for more efficient lighting – the marketplace did that.

Engineering the means to fit a fluorescent into the ubiquitous, decades-old incandescent bulb socket. Once over that hurdle, it was just a question of time, and Wal-Mart.

One would expect the same pattern to repeat where those dramatically improved efficient wall warts are concerned.

Creating efficient automobiles may require a more activist intervention – way overdue. But even for our personal transportation, the technology to improve efficiency and emissions may be close at hand.

shortattention_thumb2 ©

Maintaining for the moment our focus on bright electronics, we consider rear-projection televisions, powered by digital light processors (DLP).

nytimes

Betting on a Bright Future for Rear-Projection TVs

By ERIC A. TAUB | Published: January 21, 2008

PLANO, Tex. — Back in the early years of this decade, when plasma high-definition televisions cost $10,000, consumers found that buying a rear-projection TV was a more affordable way to jump into the digital era.

But with prices plummeting for liquid-crystal display and plasma TVs, the rear-projection market is quickly drying up. Sony and Philips got out of that business last month.

“The market is moving rapidly to L.C.D.,” said Todd Richardson, vice president for marketing of connected displays for Philips Consumer Lifestyle North America, a division of Royal Philips Electronics.

But Texas Instruments, the chip maker that developed the digital light processor most commonly found in most rear-projection TVs, is holding the line. It isn’t going to be easy.

Rear-projection TVs are getting thinner and brighter (just the opposite of yr (justifiably) humble svt, sorry to admit), and Texas Instruments is working on gamer friendly gimmicks like 3D to sweeten the pie.

Digital light processor technology uses up to two million microscopic tilting mirrors, all housed on a single chip, that direct light to the screen.

The technology, which was invented in 1987 by Larry Hornbeck, a T.I. engineer, has inherent advantages. Its TV sets weigh less than equivalent-size plasma displays. The sets can be frameless, increasing the size of the display that can fit into a given space. And D.L.P. sets consume less energy than plasma displays, an increasingly important factor as consumers opt for very large sets.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Betting on a Bright Future for Rear-Projection TVs – New York Times

On a related note, anyone else find those Texas Instrument DLP advertisements with that little girl (“it’s the mirrors”) just the slightest bit annoying, if not creepy?

shortattention_thumb2 ©

Our third technological exploration takes us to the wonderful world of Tim Harford, the “underground economist” whose columns are found in Slate and, in this case, Wired.

wired

How Email Brings You Closer to the Guy in the Next Cubicle

By Tim Harford | 01.18.08 | 6:00 PM

As a columnist (which is fancy for “journalist in jammies”), …

Savor that one… “journalist in jammies.” What we commentary bloggers aspire to, I suppose.

… I ought to personify the conventional wisdom that distance is dead: All I need to get my work done is a place to perch and a Wi-Fi signal. But if that’s true, why do I still live in London, the second-most expensive city in the world?

If distance really didn’t matter, rents in places like London, New York, Bangalore, and Shanghai would be converging with those in Hitchcock County, Nebraska (population 2,926 and falling). Yet, as far as we can tell through the noise of the real estate bust, they aren’t. Wharton real estate professor Joseph Gyourko talks instead of “superstar cities,” which have become the equivalent of luxury goods — highly coveted and ultra-expensive. If geography has died, nobody bothered to tell Hitchcock County.

Harford brings to light an astonishing paradox of our modern electronic collaborating world.

But I think the truth is more profound than either of those glib explanations: Technology makes it more fun and more profitable to live and work close to the people who matter most to your life and work. Harvard economist Ed Glaeser, an expert on city economies, argues that communications technology and face-to-face interactions are complements like salt and pepper, rather than substitutes like butter and margarine. Paradoxically, your cell phone, email, and Facebook networks are making it more attractive to meet people in the flesh.

Go figure.

He points out that, even as electronic communications have grown by orders of magnitude, air travel keeps growing (despite the Transportation Security Administration’s best efforts to persuade us to stay home and nest!).

Why?

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

How Email Brings You Closer to the Guy in the Next Cubicle

What a fascinating duality: electronic communications enhancing face to face communications.

No wonder the web conferencing technology I support and evangelize for has grown, while our corporate travel expense has grown even more. Thanks, Mr. Harford, for enlightening us!

And that’s SASB© for today. Email your friends all about it, then discuss it with them over coffee.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

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mm251: Stem cells – Lab harvests from embryos non-destructively

January 12, 2008

MUDGE’S Musings

Stem cell research is simultaneously a neocon hot button, and one of medical science’s most promising magic bullets.

As a prototypical aging Baby Boomer, yr (justifiably) humble svt has made stem cell research a frequent topic in this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere©:

Stem Cell Research: Support it now!

mm251: Stem cells – Lab harvests from embryos…
mm230: Stem cells…
mm:221: The dread disease … Old age
mm201: Stemming the tide of ignorance
mm200: Stem cells: Unlike oil… alternative source
mm172: Diabetes: Not so Simple, Simon!
mm171: Maintain your brain!

George III, our presidential protector of evangelical Christian values (and please don’t confuse him with the facts), has stifled medical research based on stem cells, on the grounds that the source of the research material was purported to be aborted fetuses.

Recently, researchers have concentrated on finding less controversial sources for stem cells. The latest breakthrough was reported in Friday’s Washington Post.

washingtonpost

Lab Cites Stem Cell Advance

By Rick Weiss

Washington Post Staff Writer | Friday, January 11, 2008; Page A04

Scientists in Massachusetts said yesterday that they had created several colonies of human embryonic stem cells without harming the embryos from which they were derived, the latest in a series of advances that could speed development of stem-cell-based treatments for a variety of diseases.

In June, scientists in Japan and Wisconsin said they had made cells very similar to embryonic stem cells from adult skin cells, without involving embryos. But that technique so far requires the use of gene-altered viruses that contaminate the cells and limit their biomedical potential.

By contrast, the new work shows for the first time that healthy, normal embryonic stem cells can be cultivated directly from embryos without destroying them.

Of course, the Bush administration is not taking this advance at face value.

But that is not likely, said Story Landis, who heads the National Institutes of Health Stem Cell Task Force, which oversees grants for studies on the medically promising cells.

The embryos Lanza used, which were donated for research, appear not to have been damaged, Landis acknowledged. However, she said, “it is impossible to know definitively” that the embryos were not in some subtle way harmed by the experiment. And “no harm” is the basis of the Bush policy, she said.

The science in question was a technical tour de force:

“It is a technically impressive piece of work,” said Douglas A. Melton of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute. “They’ve demonstrated their ability to isolate human embryonic stem cell lines without destruction of the embryos” — something few scientists thought possible just a few years ago.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Lab Cites Stem Cell Advance – washingtonpost.com

Lest we lose site of what all of the shouting is about, Wikipedia has a useful research timeline.

The possibilities for using stem cells to provide breakthrough solutions to what have been incurable, mysterious and tragic diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, sometimes called Lou Gehrig’s Disease) and diabetes are compelling. And the tragedy has been compounded by the typically ignorant, anti-science stance of the Bush administration.

When will evangelicals wake up and learn that science isn’t the opposite of religion, that the two are not mutually incompatible?

Meanwhile, January 20, 2009 (as this is written, 373 days, 6 hours, 46 minutes, 40 seconds from now) cannot get here soon enough!

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

Note!: the link to Bushtimer.com used above is for clever illustration purposes only and represents no commercial relationship whatsoever. Left-Handed Complement should be so fortunate as to ever collect remuneration of any kind for this endeavor. I can link, so I link. It’s technology. It’s cool. It’s an artifact of Sequitur Service©. Deal with it.

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mm249: OLPC – News, more news, and a review

January 10, 2008

MUDGE’S Musings

One Laptop Per Child is real, and is all over the trade press. As is our wont at this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere©, here’s a review of previous posts on the topic:

mm088: Meet the XO
mm089: Amateur mapmaking…
mm099: A $99 Desktop…
mm149: India’s take…
mm153: By a Laptop, Get one…
mm162: Laptop with a Mission
mm170: Technology and Ed …
mm179: OLPC for India after all?
mm189: OLPC cranks up!
mm203: OLPC: News; discouraging word
mm212: Cheap computing…
mm219: OLPC — Harvard speaks
mm232: Li’l green laptops a hit in Peru
mm247: OLPC — reviews are coming in

News of Intel’s sudden departure from the OLPC board of directors came to our attention last week. This story, from eSchool News was forwarded by MUDGElet No. 2, the education professional in the family.

eschoolnews

Intel quits One Laptop Per Child program

Chip maker, OLPC founder trade accusations about who is to blame

From eSchool News staff and wire service reports

OLPC founder Nicholas Negroponte claims Intel undermined the group’s sales efforts even after joining its board.

It was like one of those ill-fated relationships you suspect won’t last, and on Jan. 3, it finally ended: Citing disagreements with the organization, Intel Corp. said it has abandoned the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) initiative, dealing a blow to the ambitious project that seeks to bring millions of low-cost laptops to children in developing countries.
The fallout ends a long-simmering spat that began even before the Santa Clara, Calif.-based chipmaker joined OLPC’s board in July, agreeing to contribute money and technical expertise. It also came only a few days before the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, where a prototype of an OLPC-designed laptop using an Intel chip was slated to debut.

Seems like OLPC had some legitimate beefs with Intel.

A day after learning that Intel was abandoning his project over “philosophical” differences, Negroponte hit back, claiming on Jan. 4 that Intel had undermined his group’s effort to sell low-cost computers for schoolchildren in the developing world even after the chip company got a seat on the nonprofit’s board. He said Intel’s sales representatives had been disparaging OLPC and its XO machine as they pushed Intel’s sub-$300 Classmate PCs.

Negroponte said Intel even tried to undo a deal that OLPC already had sealed in Peru by citing flaws in the XO and telling government ministers “we ought to know, because we are on the board.” Such hostile comments were prohibited, Negroponte claimed, under the July peace treaty that brought Intel into the OLPC camp.

“I want to say we tried, but it was never a partnership,” Negroponte said. “There’s not one single thing in their contract or agreement that they lived up to.”

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Top News – Intel quits One Laptop Per Child program

News now comes from ZDNet blogger Dan Farber at the Consumer Electronics Show, where Nicholas Negroponte was a principal speaker.

zdnetfarberdignan

OLPC’s Negroponte seeks truce with Intel and deal with Microsoft

Posted by Dan Farber @ 3:43 pm

During a presentation at the Consumer Electronic Show this afternoon, One Laptop Per Child’s Nicholas Negroponte didn’t address the recent rift between Intel and his organization.

negroponte.jpg
Nicholas Negroponte and his baby, the OLPC

Intel recently unhooked itself from the OLPC board of directors, and Negroponte was not shy about blasting the chipmaker last week:

Despite OLPC’s best efforts to work things out with Intel and several warnings that their behavior was untenable, it is clear that Intel’s heart has never been in working collaboratively as a part of OLPC. This is well illustrated by the way in which our separation was announced single-handedly by Intel; Intel issued a statement to the press behind our backs while simultaneously asking us to work on a joint statement with them. Actions do speak louder than words in this case. As we said in the past, we view the children as a mission; Intel views them as a market.

News.com’s Michael Kanellos has some good fodder he picked up during Negroponte’s CES presentation:

What keeps this story line from being merely a pissing match among grown-ups who should know better are the stakes involved.

There’s a reason One Laptop Per Child has been so newsworthy: it’s a beacon of innovation for an industry that, Apple aside, seems to have commoditized itself into boredom.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

» OLPC’s Negroponte seeks truce with Intel and deal with Microsoft | Between the Lines | ZDNet.com

Finally, from the same source, ZDNet’s Larry Dignan, Dan Farber’s blogging partner there, comes a recent review of the XO-1 itself. We’ve posted a couple of these recently, and they are intriguing looks at a fascinating and world-changing tool.

Lessons learned: Two weeks with the XO laptop

Posted by Larry Dignan @ 2:03 am

Repeat after me. The XO laptop from the One Laptop Per Child project is designed for kids. Why bore yourself with that mantra? If you don’t you may find yourself griping about something that wasn’t designed for you in the first place.

That’s one of the big takeaways from my two weeks with the XO (see unboxing gallery). Let’s face it–I bought the XO for me (err my daughter). Sure, she’d play with it, but dear old dad’s gadget lust–along with doing a good deed–drove the purchase.

So what did I learn?

1. It’s my daughter’s laptop. I’ve barely seen the thing since she’s been doing non-productive things like looking at herself in the Webcam and showing her one-year old sister the toy. Checking email? Silly grown up things. The XO is about the built in drawing program, the Web cam and icons my 5 year old guinea pig grasped instantly.

2. The XO is rugged. It has been dropped, tossed into a toy box and has had its shares of fluids on it–syrup, snot etcetera. I cringe, but the kids don’t.

3. It’s intuitive. Sure the XO is a laptop, but it’s really all about the software. Is it easy to navigate? How’s the interface? Can anyone pick it up? The Fedora based operating system rarely raised any questions for my daughter. She found the write program with little effort. And aside from the music program, which frankly was over her head, she found her way around easily.

So his five-year-old daughter grabbed it and hasn’t let go. That’s the entire story in a nutshell – a teaching tool that children play with. Education, in such short supply in much of the world, can become absorbed like all too scarce vitamins. Dignan identifies some issues with XO-1, but they don’t seem to be deal breakers.

Other odds and ends:

  • Some folks have asked me to try out the Asus EeePC, which could be a superior device–I don’t know. Meanwhile, Christopher Dawson has a series on Intel’s Classmate, a strong rival. However, these comparisons miss the point. The (emerging) market is big enough for multiple players and it’s not clear that students need an alpha male device (my chip is faster than yours and can do office productivity!). The kids just need something that works so let’s not impose that cliche device wars storyline to the OLPC.

We’ve talked a bit about the ASUS Eee PC recently. More of a conventional product, as is the Intel Classmate, but compellingly low-priced and thus a potential competitor to the XO-1.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

» Lessons learned: Two weeks with the XO laptop | Between the Lines | ZDNet.com

OLPC XO-1, ASUS Eee PC, Intel Classmate: it’s all good. If Nicholas Negroponte has revitalized the laptop computer business, how beautiful is that?

Let’s get them all out to those educationally bereft parts of the world that need them so desperately, soonest!

As a veteran teacher once exclaimed (unfortunately, after 30 years or so the context is a mystery to me), “May the best educational experience win!”

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

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