Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Silicon Valley Delegation To Go To D.C. To Rally Support For Startup Visa Act

The U.S. needs to be more welcoming of startup founders, no matter where they were born. But the illegal immigration debate is so politically sensitive that startup founders, who create tons of jobs, get lumped in with migrant farm workers and the discussion sort of comes to a crashing halt there. Now is the time for us to rally, though, and avoid this type of situation. There is real momentum behind the Startup Visa Act, and there’s a realistic chance that, for once, our government can do something to actually help the innovation ecosystem in Silicon Valley.

On Thursday 20 or so Silicon Valley entrepreneurs will travel to Washington D.C. to talk with government officials about the Act, introduced last week by Senator John Kerry (D-MA) and Richard Lugar (R-IN), and drum up more support. Venture capitalist Dave McClure is organizing the trip.

The Startup Visa Act of 2010 would create a two year visa for immigrant entrepreneurs who are able to raise a minimum of $250,000, with $100,000 coming from a qualified U.S. angel or venture investor. After two years, if the immigrant entrepreneur is able to create five or more jobs (not including their children or spouse), attract an additional $1 million in investment, or produce $1 million in revenues, he or she will become a legal resident.

What can you do to help? Tweet @2gov supporting #StartupVisa exactly at 10 AM Pacific on Wednesday March 3rd (tomorrow). Your messages will be collected and delivered during the group’s visit to the White House on Thursday. They’re hoping to get 5,000 tweets. I’m pretty sure we can do better than that.

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

HP Invents a "Central Nervous System for Earth" and Joins the Smarter Planet Sweepstakes

HP Labs researcher Peter Hartwell holds a prototype vibration and movement sensor, a super-sensitive inertial accelerometer. The first to be deployed as part of HP Labs’ Central Nervous System for Earth (CeNSE), it is about 1,000 times more sensitive than today’s mass-produced devices. Photo: Margie Wylie

Just days after Cisco signaled it will horn into IBM's turf by rewiring an aging city in Massachusetts, Hewlett Packard announced this morning the first commercial application of its own holistic blueprint--the torturously acronymed "CeNSE" (short for Central Nervous System for the Earth). Much like IBM's "Smarter Planet" campaign, HP proposes sticking billions of sensors on everything in sight and boiling down the resulting flood of data into insights for making the world a better, greener place. But what sets HP apart from its rivals is its determination to create a smarter planet almost entirely within house, from sensors of its own design and manufacture to servers to software to the consultants who will tie it all together. And its first customer could not be less green: Shell Oil.

The world's best seller of PCs and its biggest oil company will collaborate on a wireless sensor network to aid in oil exploration. In the system they imagine, sensors like the one seen above will be laid on the ground at regular intervals across hundreds of square miles, listening for sound waves bounced through miles of sub-strata and hopefully pockets of oil. This seismic data will be uploaded to HP-supplied servers and processed by Shell's proprietary software to map the subterranean lay of the land. "The current state of the art isn't good enough, and certainly is not what we want it to be," said Wim Walk, manager of novel geophysical technologies for Shell. "We hope to really make a leap forward in quality. This project is designed to gain a competitive advantage for us onshore."

Walk declined to quantify what that advantage will be (and financial terms were not disclosed), although HP Labs director Prith Bannerjee boasted that his team's sensors, unveiled in November, "are a thousand times more sensitive" than the accelerometers in current models. Better instruments equals better images, which translates to drilling fewer exploratory wells and recovering every last drop from existing ones, thus driving down the cost of production.

Building a better sensor is one thing; building one that's good enough and cheap enough at scale is another. So-cheap-as-to-be-free sensors are at the heart of every vision for smarter cities, which also go by the names of "ubiquitous computing" or "the Internet of Things." While Moore's Law has been doing its thing for more than a decade now, shrinking both the size of sensors and their cost, they have yet to reach the tipping point of mass adoption. HP is taking the matter into its own hands with plans to embed up to a trillion tiny sensors worldwide over the next decade. It has one advantage its rivals do not: it is already the world's largest producer and consumer of micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS), which are embedded in millions of its inkjet printers. For Shell, HP will produce its own MEMS sensors at the Corvallis, Oregon plant of its Imaging and Printing Group. One of the project’s goals is to achieve the economies of scale which have so far eluded other manufacturers like Texas Instruments.

Unlike IBM, which has positioned itself as primarily a smarter city integrator, or Cisco,which has teamed up with 3M and United Technologies to handle nitty-gritty tasks while it focuses on the network, HP appears determined to fulfill its CeNSE vision from soup-to-nuts. The Shell deal not only includes sensors designed by HP Labs and fabricated by its printing group, but also HP’s own networking, storage, servers, and software products, overseen by consultants from its Enterprise Services arm (formerly EDS). "The whole world of IT is shifting into a world of plants, pipettes, and forests, and not just the back office," said Jeff Wacker, the leader of services innovation at HP and the head of its efforts to commercialize CeNSE.

Although HP's first customer isn't a city, but a corporation, its long-term goal is to develop sensors mimicking each of the five senses and stud them throughout physical environments. In an interview last fall, Stan Williams, the director of HP's Information and Quantum Systems Lab, said the company was looking for "city-level" projects. "You need at least a million sensors to tackle every piece of the puzzle," he said. "There are very few companies, probably less than a handful, who have both the wherewithal and the vision to engage in something like this." City-level projects will be necessary "to understand the situation at scale, and to bring together all of the aspects at scale."

If that happens, HP should expect to run into the same difficulties technology companies experienced once before when trying to sell consumers on all-inclusive "digital homes." While purchasing managers appreciate integrated solutions, residents usually don't. HP's CeNSE effort mirrors the recent trend toward industry consolidation (as seen in Oracle-Sun, Dell-Perot Systems, and HP-3Com) to better sell complete lineups of hardware, software, networking and services to large customers. This approach may work well for the #1 company in the Fortune Global 500, but it's far from clear whether tech companies can create services people actually want, instead of ones they want them to have.

The Shell deal also unintentionally explodes the myth that a smarter planet is necessarily a greener one. HP's bleeding-edge accelerometers are being deployed for the least green thing you can think of: sucking every last drop of oil out of the ground. While absolutely necessary for the current trajectory of our way of life (and buying us more time to develop alternatives), it's hard to argue that technology for more efficiently recovering fossil fuels is in any way sustainable. (Although Wacker gamely argues the same technology is needed for finding empty pockets suitable for carbon sequestration.) While corporate-sponsored smarter cities can, in fact, be greener ones, their charter is the same as it ever was: profit.

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Saturday, January 30, 2010

Is Bill Gates’ New Website Really Running On Linux?

Sometimes tips come in that seem too good to be true. Take today, for example. I got a tip that Bill Gates’ new site, The Gates Notes, was running on a Linux-powered server. This would be ironic since Gates is of course the founder of Microsoft, which is Linux’s biggest competitor in the server market. It would be the equivalent of catching Gates or CEO Steve Ballmer being caught using (and not just signing) a MacBook at a conference. So is it true?

A quick search on Netcraft shows sure enough isrunning on the Linux OS. But wait. The results also say that web server is Microsoft-IIS/7.0. That doesn’t sound right, so what gives? Well, it turns out that because Gates is using Akamai to mirror his sites’ content in the event of massive traffic (or more specifically, something like a DDoS attack), this data is being filtered through there. Akamai uses Linux for its servers, so that’s what OS is being passed back to Netcraft. But at the same time, to make things more confusing, the Akamai servers are still passing back the correct server header for Gates’ site: Microsoft-IIS/7.0.

How do I know this? Because the same thing happened in 2003 when it was humorously, but erroneously reported that Microsoft was using Linux servers to run In fact, the same thing was going on: Microsoft was routing its traffic through Akamai, which again, runs Linux boxes. Microsoft has since apparently changed to its own servers since then so that they now correctly return Windows Server 2003 as their OS. That is likely what The Gates Report is running on as well given the Microsoft-IIS/7.0 web servers.

So sadly, no nice bit of irony here, it would seem. But if you haven’t yet done so, take the opportunity to check out Gates’ site, it’s really well done and full of good information.

source :’-new-website-really-running-on-linux/

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Desktop V Twin Engine

From the website:

This is the fully operational, internal combustion V-twin engine that is optimally balanced for minimum vibration and smooth operation up to 1,500 rpm. Made by a German engineering company, it is built using two aluminum 1 1/2 cc cylinders and stainless steel exhaust pipes. After filling its reservoir with butane (commonly available at drug stores), the engine is started by turning its solid brass flywheel. Its piezo magneto attaches to a timing disc that is precisely calibrated to send an electrical impulse to the two spark plugs that ignite the fuel within each cylinder.

The individual movements of the valve rods, crosshead, and crankshaftIts are clearly visible at lower revolutions, and its efficient puttering equals the noise output of a kitchen blender. Its non-toxic exhaust allows you to operate the engine in a ventilated room. It operates up to 10 minutes from a full tank.

Get One Here: Hammacher Schlemmer

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Amazon Promotion Tempts Book Lovers With Free Kindles

Hesitant about ordering an Amazon Kindle? The online retailer is apparently making a very tempting proposition to some of its customers: go ahead and order a Kindle, and if you don't like it, you'll get your money back — and get to keep the device. In other words, if you're not satisfied you'll get a free Kindle (and an Amazon-branded cover). Talk about putting your money where your mouth is. The screenshots we've received look legitimate, but we haven't been able to find any mention of this offer on Twitter or elsewhere (this seems like the sort of thing people would be going nuts over). We've contacted Amazon for confirmation. If you see it yourself, let us know in the comments.

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