02 February 2006

According to some new research reported by the BBC, ID theft is a serious problem. But not as serious as you think. Most victims (68%) suffered no financial losses. And only 9% of victims blamed the Internet for the theft. Lost and stolen wallets and not-so-trustworthy acquaintances cause far more damage.

The lack of financial losses is somewhat reassuring to me, since the Boston Globe recently decided to print my credit card information (and that of 200,000 other subscribers) on the route sheets it bundles with newspapers. Maybe buying everything with cash isn't such a bad idea after all....

Posted 10:16 AM

01 February 2006

A random thought. Management guru Peter Drucker once said, "The first sign of decline of an industry is loss of appeal to able people."

If that's true, what are the implications of the lack of interest in math and science by American high school students? Is it a potential cause of the possible future decline of American science, or a symptom of a decline that is already underway? And what can be done about it?

President Bush's plan to increase funding for math and science education is certainly a good start, provided the dollars actually appear. Most educational programs are chronically underfunded, even as their political sponsors brag about them.

Posted 05:47 PM

1350 words since my last update, 13,200 for all of January. Hoping to double that in February.

Posted 02:02 PM

Heh heh heh. Very bad news for proponents of broadcast flags and other content restriction technologies. Senator Ted Stevens' daughter bought him an iPod. Senator Stevens (R-AK) chairs the Commerce Committee, which handles things like the broadcast flag. The Senator thinks it would be really neat if he could put radio broadcasts on his iPod and listen to them later. Uh oh.

IPaction thinks every Senator should have an iPod, and is collecting contributions to make it happen.

Posted 01:37 PM

Microsoft has a new takedown policy for blogs (and presumably other content) that violates local laws. They'll take content down, but only if formally ordered to by the government, and only for that particular country. In other words, China can control what Chinese readers see, but not the rest of the world.

This isn't a perfect policy. I'd love to see big companies take a stand in favor of an open Internet, instead of actively helping countries maintain closed societies (are you listening, Cisco?). But this policy will do. It acknowledges local jurisdictions, but without letting local decisions have a global impact.

Microsoft doesn't say so, but the US government probably can enforce a global takedown order if it decides it wants to. Microsoft's servers are physically located in the US.

Posted 01:18 PM

29 January 2006

5100 words since my last update, 11,850 year to date. Again, I've been doing a lot of revision, which keeps my total words down.

Posted 02:34 PM

One of the reasons why I've been so quiet for the last few months is that I've been neck deep in a study of the photovoltaic market. I got to talking about that work in another forum and it occurred to me that some of you might be interested as well. I hope to post the executive summary here, once I finish it and assuming I can get clearance from my client.

But meanwhile, a lot of the key statistics are readily available. Currently the average world price for solar electricity is between 21 and 38 cents per kilowatt hour. (Residential installations are more, industrial installations are less.) My local utility, NStar, is between 13 and 18 cents per kilowatt hour. Lots of variables go into calculating the payback time -- cost of the installation, cost of money, tax incentives, amount of sunshine -- but 15 to 20 years is a good back of the envelope estimate.

Solar is more competitive in places that have very high electricity prices (Japan), poor grid connections (Australia's Outback), or strong government incentives (Germany, California). The gap is shrinking from both sides -- higher nonrenewable electricity costs and more efficient solar cells -- but it hasn't closed yet.

More investment could make a huge difference. Even with absolutely no technical advances, each doubling of solar cell capacity cuts costs by almost 20% due to economies of scale.

Posted 10:25 AM


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