A New Way To Grow Ethanol.

September 17, 2007 at 8:37 pm (Knowledge, Tech)

Ah, ethanol, the politicians new darling.

While this fuel holds many promises, it also has its pitfalls. Namely that ethanol is made from corn, which we eat (and drink) in everything. I do mean everything. It’s in our food, in our sodas, our furnishings, batteries, beer, paper, pharmaceuticals, the list goes on. The problem with using ethanol for fuel is that there is just not enough corn to go around. But what if there was another way to grow it? Professor Pengchen (Patrick) Fu (whom I believe works at “the Department of Molecular Biosciences and Bioengineering at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. His laboratory focuses on metabolic engineering, bioprocess control, metabolomics, Systems and synthetic biology,” according to a Google search.) has dreamed up a novel way to “grow” ethanol. From Refactor Reality:

Professor Pengchen (Patrick) Fu is using cyanobacteria to produce ethanol from sunlight, carbon dioxide, and water. I got to see this first-hand at Wired NextFest. This is exceedingly cool since ethanol, a useful fuel, burns cleanly to produce energy, carbon dioxide, and water. See the pattern? It’s a sustainable cycle, essentially storing solar energy in a fuel that we already know and love. There is very little waste in this process, and it’s quite harmless, in the form of oxygen and some dead bacteria at the end of their natural life cycles. This is already cool enough that I think I need to sit down for a while and take it all in, but there is more! In case the photo didn’t make things amply evident, let me state clearly: Pengchen (Patrick) Fu has come up with a possible solution for renewable energy using large, glowing cylinders full of bubbling green liquid. These things look like they came straight off the set of a science fiction movie. You know, the good kind, with lots of explosions.

“A series of tubes.”

Hey explosions are cool, right? But I do have a few issues with this idea.

  • Ethanol does NOT burn cleanly. It’s thought to be cleaner burning. However, it is far from perfectly clean. When things burn, they produce wastes, sorry folks, that’s just the way it is. Here’s a great pdf research paper outlining some of the possible effects of ethanol burning. Let it be noted that ethanol does burn cleaner than gasoline. To bad you have to burn more of it to get the same amount of power as from a comparable amount of gas.
  • Just because a movie has explosions, does not make it good. “Battlefield Earth” comes to mind.
  • The “large, glowing cylinders full of bubbling green liquid” making fuel is pretty awesome. Much more awesome than watching corn grow, let me tell you. I should know, living in Nebraska, I’m freaking surrounded by it

This could be wonderful, for Americas energy problems, should the technology pan out (and if oil companies don’t buy it up, then sit on it). I know I would much rather drive and eat than drive or eat, and taking corn out of the ethanol equation would help.

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The Matrix, anyone?

September 13, 2007 at 8:09 pm (News, Tech)

Second life to become Online AI incubator.

Found this over at The BBC:

Researchers at US firm Novamente have created software that learns by controlling avatars in virtual worlds.

Initially the AIs will be embodied in pets that will get smarter by interacting with the avatars controlled by their human owners.

Novamente said it eventually aimed to create more sophisticated avatars such as talking parrots and even babies.

The part that really got me was:

“I’d really like to do virtual talking parrots,” he said, “and then virtual babies. You would get one and it would be yours for the next 18 years.”

Online virtual children, just what we need. I guess it might be good for those that can’t, won’t, or don’t have kids. Rest of the article can be found here. Any thoughts?

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What to do when it all goes wrong. Part 1

September 13, 2007 at 6:52 pm (Knowledge, Security, Tech)

The most common computer repair problem I face.

I repair computers from home (among other things), to make extra money. Time and time again I run into the same problems. One problem, however, has become epidemic. No, I’m not talking about StormWorm, *shudder*. that’s a tale for another day. No, I’m talking about Rouge Anti-Spyware.

“Warning! Potential Spyware Operation!”

Reads the small pop up window.
If you have ever seen this, or one of the many variants of it: “Your computer could be infected with spyware,”
“Please download Blah to get rid of this problem,”
or my favorite: “Files are being copied to the internet!”
Then you too have dealt with the dreaded scareware. Fixing this problem can seem beyond your means, but maybe I can help. If you live in the Lincoln area, please visit my computer repair website to fix this problem.
Just kidding.

“But how do I fix it?”

Today I am going to show you how to fix this problem. It might even get it’s own category. I hope you have a few minutes. You also might want to (temporarily?) bookmark this page, as you will have to reboot your computer. Or, if you have access to another computer that you can keep this page open to, just work off of that. I will be noting when you should copy certain steps to notepad, to run offline. I will also assume that the infection has stripped you of administrator rights, and walkthough the steps to regain them. If you still have all rights (you can freely move files, you have access to your control panel, you can add and remove programs), just ignore those steps.

More stuff to put on your computer (sorry!).

The first thing you will want to do is download a few programs. These bits of software are going to help us deal with the infection. Do not install any of the software yet. Go ahead and download them wherever you want, but i recommend your desktop, to keep track of them.
(More tools can be found at SpywareInfo. Great forums for fixing infection problems)
1. SmitFraudFix. Can be found here and here.
2. Spybot-S&D.
3. AVG Anti-Spyware.
4. AVG Anti-Virus.
5. Ad_Aware.
6. HiJackThis. Download the installer file.

Running (your friend) HiJackThis

Ok, all done? Good, now on to the fun stuff.

  • Go to “Start” –> “My Computer” –> “Local Disk C:”
  • Now right-click on the folder and select “New” –> “Folder”, name the folder “HJT”, and press enter.
  • Double click on the HiJackThis installer. Click “browse,” select “Local Disk” –> “HJT” and click “OK.” Now click install.
  • Click “Do a system scan and save a logfile.” The program will open a window with a lot of information in it. Don’t worry about this for now. A text window will also pop up. Click “File” –> “Save As” and save it in the “HTJ” folder.
  • Close that program.

That was to save exactly what is running on the computer right now. In case these instructions fail for you, we will be making logs of our activities, to find out what went wrong. The SpywareInfo forums can help you out from there.

Fraud? It can be fixed!

Now to run SmitFraudFix. Open this page in another tab or window. Copy down the instructions in the first post to notepad. Save this to the desktop as “SmitNotes” or whatever. Just remember what you save it as.
Next, get ready for your first of many reboots. Don’t do this yet. Your going to want to restart you computer in safe mode. If you already know how to do that, go ahead and start, running SmitFraudFix in safe mode, following the instructions you copied to notepad. If don’t know how to restart in safe mode, whoa man, this is not going to be fun for you. 😛 It’s ok, I’ll help. If you want the hard way, but the way that will help you learn: Google it. Otherwise instructions for restarting in safe mode are here. After you are done running SmitFraudFix, go to “What to do when it all goes wrong. Part 2”.

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Mempile: Making really big freaking disks.

September 13, 2007 at 6:35 pm (Tech)

Who said “Moore’s Law” need only to apply to transistors?

Disk space seems to be increasing at a fairly exponential rate. Anyone know of any studies on this? I found this little tiddbit over at “Our Technological Future”. Dr Beth Erez, who works over at Mempile, the company that is creating a 1TB disk (or 1000GB, roughly), says that we may see them in two to three years. By then I should only need 5-6 of these to back up my DVD collection. Of course, that assumes that DVD’s are still being used then. Read more about the disks here.

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