In the news

What is a Bloom Box?

Simply put a Bloom Box is a fuel cell that can be power a single home or a large building (depending on the size of the box).  There, that was easy…

More specifically, the Bloom Box is a solid oxide fuel cell and it combines oxygen and fuel (in this case the leader is natural gas) in a high temperature to create electricity.

Why You Should Care

The promise of the Bloom Box is that it provides more regular electricity than wind and solar at a low cost all with a low carbon footprint, but the fact is that it’s going to be a while before you can care. It’ll be at least 5-10 years before Bloom Box makes the household version of this device available.  Large companies like Google, Walmart and eBay are already test beds for commercial versions (apparently about 15% of eBay’s electricity is coming from these things saving ~$100,000 in 7 months).

The other major benefit of the fuel cell is that the electricity is created basically on-site thereby removing the most inefficient part of the electrical grid…the transmission lines.

Although there has been a lot of hype recently it would seem that the technology at play here is not groundbreaking (for it’s industry), but that Bloom Box may have solved the puzzle of how to make them available to consumers at a reasonable price.

Props to whatever marketing company created this much hype over something that is apparently not really groundbreaking.

Click through for a nice write up from National Geographic.

Google Will Bring The Internet To You!

In June ’09 Google posted a letter in support of the FCC’s forthcoming National Broadband Plan that starts with,

Open, ubiquitous broadband connectivity holds the promise to catapult America to the next level of competitiveness, productivity, education, health, and security — but how do we get there from here?

The letter goes on to make a number of recommendations most of which are centered around ways to increase the installation of fiber optic networks nationwide.

Last week Google announced their intention to put their money where their mouth is launch an fiber optic broadband networks in various locations to “experiment with new ways to help make Internet access better and faster for everyone.”  Google wants to deliver gigabit connection speeds to between 50 and 500 thousand people at “a competitive price.”

The big G’s plan is to spend a couple billion dollars experimenting with techniques to efficiently roll out the networks and get the most out of the networks by enabling new technologies then share those findings to help the rollout nationally.

No doubt Google plans on making money through this endeavor and the idea of Google controlling another major aspect of the internet experience is scary, but they have remained pretty un-evil thus far and there are reasons to believe them on this one.  Google benefits from every additional internet user in the world so by working to rollout high-speed connectivity to more users they are creating a larger market for their services (this follows their strategy of giving away base services for free and making money elsewhere).

I’d expect there to be a gISP, but even if that’s not a major element of the strategy a national 5Mbps network (as called for in the letter) would deliver current and yet to be developed applications at blazing speeds to a lot more people.  Google has been a vocal advocate of net neutrality and has emphasized that any networks they own will be operated with open access policies.

The rollout of fiber optic networks nationally is a big deal.  The United States lags behind Europe and Asia in broadband speeds and many people argue that it hurts our economy in many ways.  Delivering that kind of bandwidth means a whole new set of applications and services that can be developed and brought to users in the home (including IP based TV and advanced mobile wireless broadband networks).  In theory, this should all encourage competition and drive down prices while delivering additional value to the users.

Google’s active involvement in increasing broadband rollout is great, but the really interesting stuff will come to light when the FCC brings the National Broadband Plan to Congress on March 17th.  How will the government jump start this rollout?  I don’t know, but I sure hope I get fiber optic access in my area soon!

For now, Google is looking for interested communities (and unless your community doesn’t care about the internet, you should be interested).

Until there is more news you can check out the Google Blog and the LA Times.

Twitter, the Super Bowl and You – #SB44

The NFL announces the #SB44 tag for Twitter and Flickr (and wherever else you use tags).

Not surprisingly the NFL has a Super Bowl XLIV related site up with all the standard bells and whistles (countdown timer, visitor guide, etc) including a new Super Bowl Twitter Page and announced #SB44 as the official hash tag for all that is Super Bowl 44 related.

The NFL marketing department has designated #SB44 as the tag to use for Twitter, Flickr and wherever else you plan on posting Super Bowl related stuff in an effort to harness the power of social media by organizing the content ever so slightly.  The site itself is a Flash-tastic compilation of tweets and photos you can pan across, but the content must be heavily moderated because there is nothing very interesting being posted (no cursing, no ranting, etc).

This is a great example of how major corporations can use  Twitter to organize their followers and help feed their own hype machine for whatever they have going on.  For users at the game, outside the stadium and across the country searching #SB44 should find you the latest and greatest news (from Twitter, at the least).

via [CNET]

Google Docs Lets You Share Any File For Free

Back in October ’09 the Google Docs team announced shared folders which was a much needed addition to the gDocs featureset.  Now the team has announced the ability to upload any file type you please, essentially making Google Docs into an online file sharing repository.

Users can upload up to 1GB of data and make the files available for viewing and download to anyone they want.  Additional storage is $.25 / GB / Year.

There are many ways out there to share files with friends and coworkers (including creating a Google Site or manually uploading to your FTP site), but being integrated directly with Google Docs makes the process much cleaner, simpler and safer.  Users can leverage their existing accounts to take advantage of the sharing and security features that come with Google Docs.

This isn’t a mind blowing feature, but the next time you need to distribute a file that is to big to e-mail you should think of Google Docs.  It’ll save you a ton of time.

via [Google Docs Blog]

Google Voice Now On the iPhone with HTML5

I’ve talked about using Google Voice in your daily life before, but Tuesday Google quietly released a new version web based version based on HTML5.

I’ve already been using a gVoice program for my Palm Pre (gDial if you were wondering…and yes it’s updated with this release), but iPhone users were stuck in limbo without an app that Apple would approve.  So, the Big G has basically gone around Apple’s app store and created a web based version that iPhone 3.0 users can take advantage of (accessible at m.google.com/voice).

Users get the ability to make calls from their gVoice number at Google’s rates as well as text message for free.

If you haven’t tried Google Voice yet you need to find someone with an invite for  you and get on it.

The really interesting subtext to this is Google avoiding the Apple app store and the power of HTML5.  If Google can put together as robust a web app as this then there are going to be a lot of people that will opt for HTML5 rather than jumping through Apple’s hoops.  HTML5 provides excellent power and is OS agnostic so developers won’t need to develop for Android, WebOS and iPhone.  They’ll be able to work in HTML5 and deliver their product to multiple platforms much more easily.

via [Google Voice Blog]

Twitter Local Trends keeps you ‘up to tweet’ on the latest in your area

On Tuesday Twitter launched a new feature that (I think) is the first to take advantage of their new GeoAPI from Mixer Labs.

Local Trends builds upon Twitter’s trending topics feature by adding a geo-location layer.  Now you can set your location and see trending topics in your area.

For example, as I write this I can see that both the national and local trending topics include Apple iPad announcements and the canceling of Ugly Betty (seriously people?).  At the same time the state of the #union is a trending topic nationally while in Los Angeles people would rather be tweeting #nowthatsghetto than discussing politics (I do love my hometown).

So, that’s not exactly a profound example (tho it does say something about my angelino brethren), but it’s the middle of the afternoon in the middle of the week.  It’ll be most interesting to see what pops up around the time of big public events or things like power outages and earthquakes.  I already believe that Twitter is the most powerful real-time news search engine available to the public right now.  For example, when there is an earthquake here in LA I’ve found the fastest way to find the epicenter and magnitude is to search ‘earthquake’ on Twitter.  With the addition of this layer of geographical information you’ll be able to get a better picture of what is going on in your area, right now.

Right now Local Trends is limited to a handful of major cities worldwide (mostly in the US), but Twitter will definitely continue to roll out new features associated with geo-location data and Twitter’s ability to deliver useful and relevant search results will continue to improve.

We’ll keep an eye on these features as they evolve and in the future we’ll talk about Twitter’s advanced search function and how you can use it to make your life easier.

via [Twitter Blog]

Yelp Ads Check-ins for iPhone Users

yelp-iphone-appNow Yelp users can check-in at their favorite locations and “broadcast your whereabouts and send Quick Tips to your friends on Yelp, Facebook and Twitter…”

I only recently started using Foursquare (my profile doesn’t reflect much more than a visit to an excellent Italian restaurant), but from what I can tell they should be worried that Yelp is going to eat their lunch.  Foursquare lets you check-in different places, broadcast your location, get tips, earn badges, and become ‘mayor’ of a location.  Yelp will let you check-in, broadcast your location and keep track of visits to a location (including a leaderboard ranking visits to a given location).

For Yelp, this is a way to jump into real-time data geo-location while adding some additional  social networking integration and if Yelp wants to add some hooks additional hooks to keep people coming back it wont take much to transform that leader board into badges and mayor-ship.

What is Yelp Check-ins? Yelp Check-ins is a way for you to broadcast that you are at a business to friends on Yelp, Facebook or Twitter. Your friends will be able to see:
- Your activity via your Yelp for iPhone profile page
- Opt-in alerts including “Push” notifications
- A Leaderboard on Yelp for iPhone
- A Map that will also show the “Check-ins” of your friends nearby and your check-in count next to your Yelp star rating if you’ve written a review on Yelp.com

- Where you’ve checked in on Monocle, Yelp’s AR feature launched in August
-Active users of Yelp Check-ins can also earn “Regular” status of highly-frequented businesses.

Geo-location data is really the missing link between social networking and people’s lives.  We’ve already highlighted geo-locations as one of the technologies to watch in 2010 and this is another example of the growth of geo-location data into the mass market.  You can expect Twitter to continue a move into geo-location data (discussed here and here) with Facebook and others not far behind.

Twitter, Geolocations and You!

Twitter Stream - TownMeMore Location based services are coming to Twitter soon (in November they introduced their first geotagging capabilities).  You can read about the Twitter’s acquisition of Mixer Labs and the GeoAPI (previously TownMe API) here.  Now, I know a lot of people worry about the stalker-ish feeling of geo-enabled services and apps, but if you carry a cellphone you are track able and it’s just a question of whether or not you publish that information publicly.

In the case of geo-Twittering I’d like to highlight a couple of ways you could benefit without just further contributing to the general flow of minutia that is often associated with Twitter.

Real Time Search

If you’re like me you’ve turned to Twitter more than once for real-time information about something.  For me it’s primarily been things like blackouts, earthquakes, plumes of smoke in the distance, and other similar things that just couldn’t be covered effectively by standard news media.  I’ve always had to search for keywords or tags to find what I was looking for, usually combining multiple searches to get a complete answer.  The addition of location information would enable searches by proximity to be combined with the keywords netting a significantly better result.  I’d really like to see someone use this feature to create a method for communicating DUI checkpoints and the locations of motorcycle cops and their damn radar guns (hey, it’s worked for decades with CB radios, why not Twitter?).



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Organize Your Night Out

You have to have a certain critical mass of tech savvy friends for this to work, but when you have flakey friends or you don’t know exactly which bar (or house) everyone will end up at sometimes it’s just easier to tweet your location (or post it to Facebook) and let people find you.  This is the same concept as Google Latitude or Loopt, but without the constant location updates.  I help host a bar crawl every summer and next year you’ll definitely be able to track us online.

Marketing

So, marketing is not exactly going to ‘benefit’ you, but the addition of geo-location information to Twitter does open the door to some intriguing marketing opportunities (advertising based on location and various contests come to mind).  This is of particular importance as it may develop into a way for Twitter generate some significant revenue.

Even if you wont use these new features directly thousands of users of sites like Seesmic Web, Foursquare, etc can look forward to more robust feature sets.

I’m looking forward to finding out exactly what Twitter has planned for this bit of tech.

FOX vs. Time Warner Cable – What You Need to Know

In case you haven’t heard, Time Warner Cable may not be carrying FOX channels after the first of the year (this includes, FOX, MyNetworkTV, FuelTV, All the Fox Sports + Fox Soccer, FX and Speed).  This has been brewing for most of the year, but it looks like it’s going to be coming down the wire as it did between Time Warner Cable (TWC) and Viacom last year.

Best I can understand (and believe me they do not make it easy to get the un-spun truth) the issue at hand is a disagreement over the value of FOX’s contents per subscriber.  TWC wants to pay something like $.50 / subscriber while FOX wants more like ~$1 / subscriber.  A full 100% difference in desired price is not a great sign for a negotiation that has been going on for months.  I’d usually take that kind of information to mean that they two sides are either big time posturing (they definitely are) and/or there is little to no chance of a reconciliation in the near term (no one knows).

Both companies have launched what are essentially propaganda sites KeepFoxOn.com for FOX and RollOverorGetTough.com for TWC to ‘inform’ customers on the ‘facts.’  In this case, I have to say that FOX’s site and information seem significantly more reasoned and particularly focused on addressing TWC’s claims.  TWC’s site takes every opportunity to point the finger at FOX while reserving the right to raise rates regardless of what happens.  FOX points out that TNT receives ~$1 / subscriber and based on viewers FOX could reasonably be asking for $5-$10 / subscriber and the fact that they are asking for $1 is not at all unreasonable.  If all that is true (I have not confirmed) then I’m not sure I can disagree with FOX.  TWC keeps throwing up claims of 300% increases, but I can’t seem to find any indication of what is being increased 300%.

It’d be very interesting to know where the BCS and NFL stand on this whole thing as they seem to be the outside institutions in position to lose the most money should there be an outage.  I imagine they just want to see a resolution no matter what, but are they working both TWC and FOX or just FOX?  The ripple effect of the NFL missing TV opportunities and BCS bowl games being blacked out to 13 million households could be pretty extensive (advertisers would not be happy).

I never really thought I’d be on FOX’s side for much of anything other than keeping The Simpsons on the air, but if I had to pick sides here, it definitely would not be Time Warner Cable.  I was a TWC subscriber for many years before switching to DirecTV (so I’m not at risk of losing FOX…yay?!)  and I can definitely say that both companies are a pain in the ass.  It’s unfortunate, but we are once again seeing a situation where there is absolutely no good outcome for the consumer.  No matter what happens here rates will go up and subscribers may or may not temporarily lose access to some of the most popular television programming.



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Here is what you need to know…

You can’t do anything to effect this one in the near future.  If FOX gives in and accepts the lower price your TWC bill will still go up unreasonably within the next 6 months.  If TWC gives in and pays the higher price your TWC bill will go up even more in a shorter time frame.

Long term, the only thing I can recommend is pushing for changes at the FCC that would require cable and content providers to offer a la carte pricing.  This would allow consumers to pay for specific channels or smaller groupings of channels rather than being forced into the 400 channel bundles we all have now.  The concept of a la cart pricing is not a new one and we even saw it happen in the satellite radio industry as one of concessions of the XM / Sirius merger.  This is the only type of change that will really benefit consumers receiving content through cable or satellite. Of course, cable companies hate this idea (I wont bore you with the details of why they hate it, but suffice it to say that it’s related to the value of an individual customer).  As is usually the case, letting people pay only for the things they want (without being forced to take things they don’t want) is the best way to provide value to the customer.

Hopefully you’ve got a better idea of why you are being bombarded by these propaganda ads and junk mail.  It’s to bad we can’t do anything about it.

If you have any questions drop me a comment and I’ll do my best.

Check Out This Guy’s Facebook Problem

Craig LynchI know sometimes I have issues pulling away from my technology be it Facebook or my cellphone, but I got nuthin’ on this guy.

Craig Lynch escaped from prison in England and has been updating his Facebook status regularly! From meal updates to musings on finding a lady in 2010 Mr. Lynch seems to be enjoying his time on the lam and he seems pretty confident it’s going to continue for a bit.  He’s even RSVP’d some events including a New Years Eve party…Unfathomable!

Obviously the cops are looking for him and they’ve contacted FB for help, but either this guy is a mastermind using FB to throw the cops off the trail or the cops are just not very good at their jobs because they clearly haven’t caught him yet.

Merry Christmas Mr. Lynch! Merry Christmas…

via {CNN} via {Telegraph.co.uk}

PS. I just became a fan of this guy on Facebook. Click here to join.