Monthly Archives: July 2006

Turning Alcohol

Ethyl alcohol – C2H5OH – CH3-CH2-OH:

I don’t think of ethanol as an alternative fuel; I think gasoline should be the alternative fuel that meets 10 to 20 percent of my needs. We definitely don’t need hydrogen. We don’t need new car engines, designs, or distribution. In less than five years, we can, with very little cost, make an irreversible change in our trajectory. With little cost to consumers, little cost to automakers, and no money from the government.

Biofuels: Think Outside The Barrel, Vinod Khosla, Google TechTalks, March 29, 2006

Khosla, a well-known venture capitalist, has been examining how Brazil did it, how they benefited including greatly reduced oil imports, and he presents a plan for how the U.S. can do it. He starts by pointing out that once you discount subsidies and taxes, the production costs of ethanol are only about $1.00/gallon vs. $1.60 for gasoline. Then he walks through why we should do this, and how to do it.

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Insurance Online (Finally)

When that most stodgy of businesses, insurance, moves online, the Internet will truly have woven itself into the fabric of everyday life.
Insurance is moving online one step at a time. Despite privacy continuing to concern users of the internet, consumers and businesses are putting more of their insurance buying process onto the internet. And Safeco recently announced their intention of having a significant online presence that will not include agents (see here), a move which has not been met with insurance agent enthusiasm.

Internet Use & Insurance Specialty Insurance Blog, July 18, 2006

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Real Fast Broadband

OK, I think I saw some confirming comments about my interpretation of Softbank ADSL’s 50Mbps for $25/mo. offering.

For those who don’t read Japanese, Try this.

Meanwhile, NTT has decided to get more subscribers than Yahoo Japan by using Fiber to the Home (FTTH). How fast is that? $100Mbps for $31/month.

Show me any U.S. city where individuals can by Internet access at speeds anywhere near that for prices anywhere like that.

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Real Broadband

Somebody who reads Japanese, please tell me if this says what I think it says: Softbank ADSL. Looks to me like ADSL at 8Mbps, 12, 26, and 50Mbps.

Here on the drilldown it seems to say 50Mbps is going for 2,725 yen a month, which would be less than $25/month. There’s a parenthetical charge that’s about the same, and a mention of NTT, but even if that’s twice as much total, $50/month for 50Mbps wouldn’t be a bad deal.

And can somebody who reads English show me where I can get a similar deal in the U.S.?


Faster than a Speeding DSL

Cringely compares (some U.S.) broadband technologies:

How much Internet bandwidth is enough? For most consumers the answer is that no amount of bandwidth is enough. We always want more. For carriers the answer is that just enough bandwidth is enough, because providing more than the minimum hurts profits. But the best rule of thumb says that the right amount of bandwidth varies with the kind of network you are using and what you are doing with it. All Internet technologies are not created equal, it seems, and the wireless varieties — specifically 3G and WiMax — are at a real disadvantage when it comes to bang for the bit.

Bound and Gagged: WiMax Isn’t What It Seems, But Then Nothing Else Is, Either. By Robert X. Cringely, I, Cringely, PBS, July 6, 2006

He remarks that Intel is investing $600 million in Craig McCaw’s Clearwire Corporation, which does WiMax, because Intel wants to push Intel chips. And that WiMax can get up to 70 megabits per second, which is much faster than most current U.S. broadband technologies.

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Googling for Malware

Here’s an “of course” idea:
By taking advantage Google’s binary search capability, Websense has created new software tools that can sniff out malware using the popular search engine. Websense researchers Googled for strings that were used in known malware like the Bagel and Mytob worms and have uncovered about 2,000 malicious Web sites over the past month, according to Dan Hubbard, senior director of security and research with Websense.

Google’s Binary Search Helps Identify Malware Thousands of malicious Web sites pinpointed thanks to a little-known capability in Google’s search engine. Robert McMillan, IDG News Service Friday, July 07, 2006

It’s astonishing nobody thought of that before. It’s good that Dan Hubbard and Websense did.

The article also quotes somebody that says that miscreants fiddling keywords to con users into downloading malware is old hat, because “most Web surfers are smart enough to avoid” it. Yet it only takes a percent of users to make it worth the miscreant’s while.


Base Rate Fallacy

Bruce Schneier explains why making the haystack bigger doesn’t help us find a needle that keeps changing:

For example, even highly accurate medical tests are useless as diagnostic tools if the incidence of the disease is rare in the general population. Terrorist attacks are also rare, any "test" is going to result in an endless stream of false alarms.

Data Mining for Terrorists, Bruce Schneier, March 09, 2006, Schneier on Security.

And many false alarms mean a lot of innocent people being harassed needlessly, in other words, civil liberties being eroded for little or no benefit.

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Ed Felten on Net Neutrality

Here’s an interesting paper by Ed Felten that makes some good points about net neutrality, such as that it’s really about control of innovation.

Nonetheless, he misses one of the main points. He recommends wait and see before any regulation, which ignores that the FCC already changed the rules 5 August 2005 when it reclassified DSL services as Information Services rather than Telecommunications Services, and adopted some unenforced principles instead.

In other words, wait and see is wait and let the telcos get away with having already abrogated net neutrality.


PS: Seen on boingboing.

Climate Risk Management

So if you’re a hard-nosed businessman, do you say climate change is bunk?
The calculations go along two lines, depending on the industry: Corporations are either mitigating risk associated with climate changes or seeking out business opportunities in fields such as clean energy.

Faced with a higher frequency of storms, and more severe ones, insurance companies are re-examining their exposure to risk and, in some cases, cutting off policies.

But there’s an upside, too: Investors are flocking to so-called clean, or green, technologies that cut down on greenhouse gas emissions, notably carbon dioxide.

Smart money eyes climate change By Martin LaMonica, CNET, Published on ZDNet News: July 10, 2006, 4:00 AM PT

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