Bookmarks for January 20th through January 23rd

These are my links for January 20th through January 23rd:

  • – Featured Datasets: Open Government Directive Agency – Datasets required under the Open Government Directive through the end of the day, January 22, 2010. Freedom of Information Act request logs, Treasury TARP and derivative activity logs, crime, income, agriculture datasets.
  • All Your Twitter Bot Needs Is Love – The bot’s name? Jason Thorton. He’s been humming along for months now, sending out over 1250 tweets to some 174 followers. His tweets, while not particularly creative, manage to be both believable and timely. And he’s powered by a single word: Love.

    Thorton is the creation of developer Ryan Merket, who built him as a side project in around three hours. Merket has just posted the code that powers him, and has also divulged how he made Thorton seem somewhat realistic: the bot looks for tweets with the word “love” in them and tweets them as its own.

  • Building a Twitter Bot – "Meet Jason Thorton. To people who know Jason, he is a successful entrepreneur in San Francisco who tweets 4-5 times a day. But Jason has a secret, he’s not really a human, he’s the product of my simple algorithm in PHP

    Jason tweets A LOT about the word “love” – that’s because Jason actually steals tweets from the public timeline that contain the word “love” and posts them as his own

    Jason also @replies to people who use the word “love” in their tweets, and asks them random questions or says something arbitrary

    It took me about 3 hours to code Jason, imagine what a real engineer could do with real AI algorithms? Now realize that it’s already a reality. Sites like Twitter are full of side projects, company initiatives, spambots and AI robots. When the free flow of information becomes open, the amount of disinformation increases. Theres a real need for someone to vet the people we ‘meet’ on social sites – will be interesting to see how this market grows in the next year

  • Website monitoring status – Public API Status – Health monitor for 26 APIs from popular Web services, including Google Search, Google Maps, Bing, Facebook, Twitter, SalesForce, YouTube, Amazon, eBay and others
  • PG&E Electrical System Outage Map – This map shows the current outages in our 70,000-square-mile service area. To see more details about an outage, including the cause and estimated time of restoration, click on the color-coded icon associated with that outage.

Bookmarks for January 17th through January 20th

These are my links for January 17th through January 20th:

  • PG&E Electrical System Outage Map – This map shows the current outages in our 70,000-square-mile service area. To see more details about an outage, including the cause and estimated time of restoration, click on the color-coded icon associated with that outage.
  • vs The Twitter Ecosystem – Fred Wilson comments on some data from John Borthwick indicating Twitter ecosystem use = 3-5x directly.

    "John's chart estimates that is about 20mm uvs a month in the US (comScore has it at 60mm uvs worldwide) and the Twitter ecosystem at about 60mm uvs in the US.

    That says that across all web services, not just AVC, the Twitter ecosystem is about 3x And on this blog, whose audience is certainly power users, that ratio is 5x."

  • Chris Walshaw :: Research :: Partition Archive – Welcome to the University of Greenwich Graph Partitioning Archive. The archive consists of the best partitions found to date for a range of graphs and its aim is to provide a benchmark, against which partitioning algorithms can be tested, and a resource for experimentation.

    The partition archive has been in operation since the year 2000 and includes results from most of the major graph partitioning software packages. Researchers developing experimental partitioning algorithms regularly submit new partitions for possible inclusion.

    Most of the test graphs arise from typical partitioning applications, although the archive also includes results computed for a graph-colouring test suite [Wal04] contained in a separate annex.

    The archive was originally set up as part of a research project into very high quality partitions and authors wishing to refer to the partitioning archive should cite the paper [SWC04].

  • Twitter’s Crawl « The Product Guy – "A list of incidents that affected the Page Load Time of the Twitter product, distinguishing between total downtime, and partial downtime and information inaccessibility, based upon the public posts on Twitters blog.

    I did my best to not double count any problems, but it was difficult since many of the problems occur so frequently, and it is often difficult to distinguish, from these status blog posts alone, between a persisting problem being experienced or fixed, from that of a new emergence of a similar or same problem. Furthermore, I also excluded the impact on Page Load Time arising from scheduled maintenance/downtime – periods of time over which the user expectation would be most aligned with the product’s promise of Page Load Time. "

  • – is the web's largest catalog of free sounds and soundboards – in over 20 categories, for mobile or PC. 252,858 free sounds on 17,171 soundboards from movies to sports, sound effects, television, celebrities, history and travel. Or build, customize, embed and manage your own

Bookmarks for April 30th from 05:57 to 07:10

These are my links for April 30th from 05:57 to 07:10:

Bookmarks for March 16th through April 2nd

These are my links for March 16th through April 2nd:

Dell recalls notebook batteries – who’s next?

Dell is recalling several models of notebook batteries, due to several incidents of spontaneous combustion. The batteries in question were manufactured by Sony, which also supplies batteries to other notebook vendors. Lithium-ion batteries are widely used today, so I’m expecting to see additional recalls from other notebook vendors, or at least a raft of press releases verifying that they do not have a problem. Dell has already set up their own web site for battery recall information.

I haven’t heard of any episodes other than various spontaneously combusting Dell notebooks and exploding Powerbooks in recent weeks, but I’m keeping an eye out for news about my Thinkpad’s battery.

The battery issue is compounded by the recent changes to airline security screening. It would be unfortunate if this got all lithium-ion batteries banned from the cabin. On the other hand I don’t see any way to create a completely accident-/terrorist-proof high density energy storage device, which is going to make some people unhappy now that they’ve noticed the issue.

Greenfuel – producing biofuel from smokestack emissions

algae biofuel reactor

Greenfuel Technologies creates bio-fuels or bio-diesel from the emissions of power plants and industrial facilities. The company’s system is being tested at MIT’s 20-megawatt power plant and it has an open invitation to other power plants. Its system produces raw oil stock from smokestack gases, reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 40% and nitrogen oxide emissions by 86%.

The system works by passing the smokestack emssions through an algae cultivation system which captures the carbon dioxide and also break down NOx. The algae can eventually be processed into biodiesel fuel.

via alarm:clock

See also: How Algae Clean the Air (Business 2.0, October 2005), Is Algae in your future? (Boston Museum of Science)

StarSight – Solar powered street lamps with wireless access points

solar lamppost
This project seems like it could be a good fit for developing but urban settings where there is fairly high population density, a budget for deploying infrastructure, and enough community support to limit problems with vandalism or theft of the equipment.

Starsight ( is a project designed to supercharge street lighting and power in developing counties. Essentially it is a network of pylons, each with a solar panel, linked not by cables but by antennae which use wireless internet protocol.

The Starsight idea came out of the involvement of London-based sustainable development specialist the Kolam Partnership in an urban street lighting initiative in Cameroon.

Reliable street lighting can help a country to develop – a study by the Kenyan government recently found that street lighting reduced crime by 65 per cent. The benefits are even more widespread – aid workers and foreign businesses are more likely to stay on in a country if they feel secure.

One of the project partners is a Next-G, a Singapore-based wireless manufacturer which is building the pylons. If the project scales up, perhaps they can find a way to set up in-country fabrication of the poles, rather than importing them.

As an aside, solar panels are commonly seen at road intersections in Bangalore. If you look carefully at the top right of this photo, you’ll see one on the street sign pylon behind the tree branches.

Mini windmills for powering very small devices

There are many applications for remote sensors and other small electronic devices in remote locations without access to the electrical grid, and where batteries may be unsuitable. A group from the University of Texas, Arlington has built a miniature windmill is 10cm (a little less than 4 inches) in diameter and can provide a power output of 7.5 milliwatts in a breeze of 16 km/hour (10 mph).

The novel aspect of this design is in its use of piezoelectric crystals rather than a conventional generator. Piezo crystals generate a voltage when they are deformed, and are commonly found in cigarette lighters and barbeque ignitions. This piezoelectric windmill brushes a series of cymbal-shaped transducers as it rotates to generate electricity.

A conventional generator that used a 10-centimetre turbine would convert only 1% of the available wind energy directly into electricity. A piezoelectric generator ups that to 18%, which is comparable to the average efficiency of the best large-scale windmills, says Priya.

Details are published in

  • Energy Harvesting Using a Piezoelectric ‘‘Cymbal’’ Transducer in Dynamic Environment,
    Hyeoung Woo Kim, Amit Batra, Shashank Priay, Kenji Uchino, Douglas Markley,
    Robert E. Newnham and Heath F. Hofmann (PDF)
  • Piezoelectric Windmill: A Novel Solution to Remote Sensing Shashank Priya, Chih-Ta Chen, Darren Fye and Jeff Zahnd (PDF)
  • (via Nature)

    Skybuilt Power – Hybrid Wind-Solar in a Shipping Container

    Check out the Skybuilt MPS (Mobile Power System). These transportable (not exactly “portable”) power systems fit inside a standard shipping container, which means it can be moved using standard rail, ship, and trucking systems. It can also be dropped by parachute. Power output depends on the configuration, but ranges from 1KW up to 50+ KW. It looks like their basic configuration uses wind and solar power, the higher power systems would probably require fuel-powered (diesel or gas) generators.

    From the Skybuilt web site:

    The MPS is a complete power station in a standard shipping container. It can be transported by truck, train, ship or plane.

    At the site, you can deploy solar panels or wind turbines in just a few hours, for self-generated power. Or, use diesel, propane, natural gas or gasoline-powered generators.

    The interior of the MPS can be used for anything—air-conditioned office space, telecommunications, medical center, emergency operations/command center or storage.

    It reminds me of the shipping containers used for buildng rural telecenters in the LINCOS program. Also some prototype mobile command centers at the Future Battle Lab back in the late 80′s, which were containers stuffed full of computers and electronic equipment in shock mounts that could be dropped out of a C-130 and unfolded into a working field command post.

    Looks expensive, but would be great for setting up a remote facility somewhere in a hurry.

    via alarm:clock

    Voltage Stabilizers and Hidden Costs of Rural ICT

    Came across a couple of posts which prompted me to dig up some of my backlog of material from the Kuppam program.
    Voltage Stabilizers at Kuppam i-Community Office
    Voltage stabilizers are uncommon and almost unknown in the US, but in India, voltage stabilizers are household equipment. Although the electrical service is nominally 240 VAC, in many rural areas the grid is underpowered, with priority given to agricultural users. This leads to scheduled power outages and wildly varying line voltages. While it is possible to run computers and other IT equipment directly from the AC line, this commonly leads to rapid equipment failure due to repeated undervoltage and overvoltage conditions.

    Solar Panel Array at Kuppam i-Community Office

    The Kuppam i-Community program office is equipped with rooftop solar panels, diesel generator backup, and a voltage stablizer system. This site houses a computer training center, network servers, wired and wireless network routers, and various desktop computers for staff use. There are classes and activities there throughout the day, and the servers support network traffic from the entire region, so there is a premium on keeping the facility running as much as possible.

    Diesel Generator at Kuppam i-Community Office

    Although the cost of the IT equipment continues to decline rapidly, the cost of power systems has remained fairly constant. Fortunately, the general trend is for lower power consumption devices in the developed markes, which leads to trickle-down availability for the developing markets.

    While most rural IT installations will not be as elaborate as this one, the indirect cost of providing power is an important consideration in building and sustaining information utilities for rural developing areas.

    A sarcastic look at stabilizers sales boosting India’s GDP

    But think some more: why do we need stabilizers in the first place? Because the voltage of the electricity that’s supplied to us fluctuates wildly. That happens because of inefficiencies in the generation and transmission of electricity. In India, we are so used to these fluctuations that we don’t even think they are abnormal: we simply buy stabilizers and use them like any other consumer product. Hell, they are just another consumer product.

    We likely also don’t think, as we buy stabilizers, that we are pumping up the GDP of the country, which we are. But if we did think of that, we might find a small perversity here. Since we tolerate inefficiency in one part of our economy — the generation of electricity — we need devices whose production and purchase shore up another part of our economy.

    One person’s recollection of life with stabilizers When Stabilizers Don’t Suffice

    Around 1988, what we had was farm that needed lots of power, a tube-well that needed lots of power, and a house that needed a little power. We also had an authorized three-phase line, which used to supply some electricity everyday. It was another matter that for the few hours a day that we had it, we needed an ammeter to figure out whether we had power or not. When the rest of the city was moaning about power cuts, we felt blessed to have any power. We also had local generators, that could run for nine or ten hours, producing electricity at four times the cost, and consuming precious diesel, before requiring a mechanic, but those were needed to run the farm. Get us our daily bread, butter and cup of water.

    See also: Ethan Zuckerman’s post from PopTech on Negroponte and the $100 Laptop

    Power Generating Backpack

    A group at University of Pennsylvania has come up with the “Suspended Load Backpack”, intended to capture electrical power as a side effect of human walking movements while carrying a backpack.

    Their project was aimed towards military applications in which soldiers routinely carry 80 pounds of equipment, including up to 20 pounds of spare batteries. They claim that an 80 pound suspended load backpack can generate around 7.4 watts while moving at “a steady clip”. They also tested with smaller loads, presumably with reduced power output.

    For comparison, a typical pack of 4 rechargable NiMH AA batteries might put out 1800mAH, or a total power capacity of around 8-9 watt-hours. The 80 pound test load reported in the UPenn press release is much heavier than most people would be willing to carry at all, let alone while traveling at a “steady clip”, but even a lower power output of 3 to 4 watts would be adequate for powering and/or charging small devices.

    I wonder how the backpack actually performs as a backpack. The frame suspension and generator look a bit heavy already, and it sounds like the load moves up and down a couple of inches, which might be ok or might be enough to throw off your stride.

    via BoingBoing, CNN

    See also: Solar Power Backpack, Solar Backpack Wireless Hotspot

    Update 09-24-2005 10:15 PDT: Article at National Geographic, article with video at MSNBC

    Don’t cross those wires – Los Angeles power outage

    The electric power went off in Los Angeles during lunch time today, which is why this site (among many others) has been offline. I’ll put together some notes here and post when the server comes back up.

    The electricity was knocked out shortly before 1 p.m. after two power surges, and outages were reported from downtown to the coast and north into the San Fernando Valley, an area encompassing hundreds of thousands of residents and thousands of businesses.

    Heavy power usage can lead to blackouts. But the weather in Los Angeles was not unsually hot Monday.

    The emergency status page at Dreamhost shows:

    Serious electricity problems in the Los Angeles area have taken our entire network off-line.
    We have no information about when power will be restored or what the status of our servers or network will be when power is restored.
    Last Updated: Monday, 12-Sep-2005 13:39:23 PDT

    An update from NBC4 news in Los Angeles at 2:17pm PDT: (they obviously have working backup power)

    The Office of Emergency Management said power officials told the agency that the outage was linked to the accidental cutting of a cable.
    A major portion of the San Fernando Valley reported outages, but power was being restored in some areas at just before 2 p.m.

    Update from Dreamhost at 3:34pm PDT:

    We now expect to begin turning all of our equipment back in within 45 to 90 minutes. Barring any complications, your websites and email will be fully operational again shortly afterwards.
    Last Updated: Monday, 12-Sep-2005 15:34:47 PDT

    Another update from NBC4 at 3:54pm PDT:

    Los Angeles Department of Water and Power officials said the outage was linked to human error at a receiving station near Burbank. Workers connected the wrong wires, causing a surge of power that led to shutdowns at three power generating stations, according to officials.

    Update from Dreamhost at 4:06pm PDT:

    Power to our data center has now been restored and our network is back up. Our servers and equipment are being powered on gradually to avoid potentially damaging power spikes. Barring any complications, your websites and email will be fully operational again very soon.
    Last Updated: Monday, 12-Sep-2005 16:06:03 PDT

    …and the site is back online at 4:37pm PDT…

    Update 09-12-2005 18:15 PDT: More from the L.A. Times, CNN, BoingBoing

    Solar backpack wireless hotspot

    wireless hotspot in a solar power backpack
    Here’s a wireless hotspot based on the Voltaic solar backpack: article link (Popular Science), blog link (Mike Outmesguine)

    What if you could marry the short-range power of Wi-Fi with the huge coverage areas of high-speed cellular services such as EV-DO to create a portable hotspot?

    Parts List
    • Junxion Box wireless gateway $700;
    • Verizon Wireless EV-DO PCMCIA card $100;
    • Voltaic Systems solar-charging backpack $230;

    Solar power backpack, briefcase

    Voltaic solar backpack
    The Voltaic Backpack is a little pricey (US$229), but would be just the thing for putting together a field survey kit for building rural wireless networks, disaster assessment (e.g. post-tsunami or earthquake), or other off-grid surveying applications. It provides a small set of solar panels mounted onto a backpack, which can generate power while you’re wearing it. The panels have a peak output of 4 watts, and charge a 2200mAh battery, which isn’t enough to run a notebook computer, but is enough to keep a GPS and cell phone, PDA, or camera running from the panel, and is probably enough to run a carefully chosen wireless access point as well.

    There are several different backpack sizes available from Voltaic, as well as a messenger bag, but the solar panels and battery charging systems are identical for all models.

    SolarMAX 28 watt solar briefcase 
    For portable-but-not-quite-mobile applications, the SolarMAX 28 watt solar briefcase from Sunshine Solar actually does put out enough power to run a notebook computer (my IBM T42p draws around 15 watts on batteries, with the display at medium brightness and with wireless and disk access going). It’s even more expensive though (UK 199, roughly US$350), not including batteries.

    Cheap Power-over-Ethernet adapters for wireless and VOIP

    One of the nuisances of installing wireless access points, VOIP phones, and other small networked devices, is the need for power in the vicinity of the device. This can be a major challenge, if you’re building a small wireless ISP using an access point on an antenna mast, which is why wireless user groups have come up with homebrew POE hacks. In the past, power-over-ethernet support has been for relatively expensive equipment geared toward commercial, large-scale installation, such as rolling out a building full of Cisco 7940 IP phones.

    There are a some cheap power-over-ethernet adapters available now from Linksys and D-Link:

    D-Link DWL-P200 (5V or 12V, list price $39.00)
    Linksys WAPPOE (5V only, list price $39.99)
    Linksys WAPPOE12 (12V only, list price $49.99)

    The 802.11af standard for power-over-ethernet has been published, so products are beginning to come onto the market that can directly accept power and ethernet over a single RJ-45 connection, without requiring a power splitter at the device end. I would be happy to see all the little power cube transformers under my desk go away sometime in the near future…