Archive for January, 2007

The new, old alternative fuel — Algae?

January 24, 2007

Venutre beat has this article by a biotech-entrepreneur Rich Hilt, who runs Menlo Park, Calif. company, LiveFuels, which is interesting if you are following the alternate energy area.

The real question is: should ethanol be the focus or will other sources be ignored in doing so. Right now, ethanol produced from only the kernels of corn yield about 370 gals/acre/yr. Diesel produced from soybeans produces 50 gals/acre/yr. Biodiesel from Palm Oil beats both with yields of 600 gals/acre/yr.
The promise of using the entire corn plant – which is referred to as “stover” and involves a more complex process in turning the cellulosic materials into ethanol – could produce 1,000 gals/acre/yr. Brazil is currently using sugar cane for its ethanol and produces about 650 gals/acre/yr. They are working on a “Super” cane that could produce 3,200 gals/acre/yr. So there is a range today of 50 to 600 gal/acre/yr for ethanol and diesel from biomass and the promise of 1,000 to 3,200 gal/acre/yr in the next 5 to 10 years for some of the other newer varieties of crops.

People in the energy business are looking for an oil that can be used to provide a feedstock to existing oil refineries. It might come from corn, oil crops, or algae. Don Paul, Chevron’s Chief Technology Officer, has referred to this as “super” crude, and should be viewed as an important goal of the biofuels industry. The advantage that biologists have in working on algae is that they can literally look for the right algae with oils that have carbon molecules with chains of 5 or 6 carbon atoms rather than the 12 – 15 carbons in most of the exiting biofuels. This would take advantage of the entire infrastructure already in place.


Steve Ballmer laughs off at the iPhone

January 19, 2007

He laughs at it saying it is the most expensive phone that no one can afford. OK laughing at it is a little exaggeration, but he does look like little over confident.

Yeah, laugh at the competitor at your own expense. What iPhone is offering is not just new cell phone but easier way to operate the advanced features of cell phone. Pricing is always flexible, there will be discounts etc later on.

What is with US corporate culture? whole idea is if you respect your competitor you are considered as lacking self confidence or inferior? In my previous company, in our engineering meetings, engineering presentations used to start with “Kicked their a##’ referring to competitor(s), it was not just one presenter, but presenter after presenter same thing. I can agree that if it was some kind of sales meeting, it makes sense, but engineering meeting? Come next quarter, that competitor did kick our a##, well not exactly in the same sense, but they did have a better results and market rewarded them and we were pushed down.

AT&T offers unlimited mobile-to-home calling, but…

January 19, 2007

AT&T announced a promotion to outsmart the cable competition, but IMO it is hardly appealing.

The service, dubbed AT&T Unity, is offered as a perk to subscribers who pay for both the $50 a month unlimited local and long-distance calling plan for their home or business and the $59.99 a month unlimited wireless plan.

..errr if the mobile plan is unlimited, how does it matter? OK may be it is not really unlimited. Either way, I dont feel that much need to call home these days. Every individual has a mobile phone and mobile-to-mobile is free. Besides, you can get a VOIP for $25, so use the other $25 to get into the next level of plan in wireless.

I know for some people this will be attractive, but not for those who are cost conscious. Let’s see what happens, who goes out of what segment. (Telco’s offering video, cable offering telecom!!). As Jeff Nolan mentioned in his comments, cable VOIP is not exactly cheap.

How much would it cost to manufacture an iPhone (apple’s cell phone)

January 18, 2007

Business week has this interesting article, where a silicon valley marketing research firm iSuppli makes a guess about the cost.

Adding up the cost of all the parts that Apple is expected to use in the device suggests it will cost about $230 to build the 4GB version that will sell for $499 and about $265 to build the 8GB version that will sell for $599.
The single most expensive part will be the 3.5-inch touch-sensitive display, which iSuppli says will cost $33.50, while the combined cost of the NAND-type flash memory chips—probably supplied by Samsung—will run $35 to $70, depending on the model.

AT&T to baby bells and back to AT&T

January 18, 2007

Pretty funny. Hats off to Colbert

Netflix tries _online_ rental

January 16, 2007

I understand, they always had the online model. But, now they are trying out their hand in the download… sorry stream mode of delivery for rentals.

Well, there are conditions, you got to have real high speed internet, only 1000 titles are available for now, there is only ‘n’ hours available per customer.

They do want to go one-up against Blockbusters Total Access, which is a great service for consumers. My son loves to browse in the store and I usually get confused in store because I forget what I am looking for. So, I have gotten their minimum subscription ($10 per month + tax) and I get a dvd for myself online and when my son wants (he is just a kid, he just wants some cartoon), I just use the returns to get one in-store rental free.

Anyway, even with my high speed internet online video is not that great so far. I doubt if Netflix has mastered that technology. But we never know till some one tries it and reviews it. For me, it is not impressive, as I am more comfortable watching from a DVD player than hooking my laptop into TV. (I dont know how to get a good quality with that)

Till that time, I feel the same way as OmMalik feels…. “Return to the sender

Hottest year and religion of global warming

January 10, 2007

There is lot of press on 2007 is supposed be a hottest year ever recorded because of El nino, you can read about it here, here and here.

But interesting thing or discussion is about if it is related to global warming or just natural cyclic phenomena we have not recorded before. You never know, it is all about relativeness in science/ truth (anekantavada). As it stands, it seems like there is a notable temperature increase in recent years. Everyone, depending on where they stand (or how they make their living) provide an analysis, twist, quirk on the news, observation etc. Some people are equating the fear on global warming to religion, saying what Gore’s preaching is not exactly science and people are blindly following him.

For me, who cares? if global warming is the magic mantra that makes people to think twice about their everyday consumption of natural resources, that is good enough. Even if it is totally farce, just does not matter as long as people start to drive fuel efficient cars, forces the factories to emit less green house gases, that is good enough. (Aparigraha)

Of course, religion also supposed to make people better with blind faith, alas some hijacked it and made it a cause for more destruction. Hope environmentalism does not lead to similar things.

iPhone or aPhone (new phone from Apple)

January 10, 2007

Everyone is talking about the iphone from apple. There are some good coverage at engagedat etc, but good place to see the demo is of course apple web site.
Apple i Phone

One, I was amazed at the some of the simple things that other cell phone manufacturers/providers could not think of. Like visual menu to voice mails. It is probably not all that hard to do if they really had thought about it. It is too early to say if this becomes successful, but I am sure it will start a new page in the usability of cell phones.

When I tried to buy a new phone couple of months back, initially I purchased a smart phone that runs the M$ OS. It sucked was a understatement. I cannot really say if it was because of the hard ware or software, but the experience was awful. So, I just went back and purchased a samsung phone without much of the bells and whistles. My thought was, if it is a phone, let it be just phone not a internet device which is hard to use for browsing. With smart applications that are built for mobile device, I might change my stand, but as of now I feel that let phone just do the “talk/sms” part properly. Of course, having music in the same device seems natural.

As many have pointed out, make or break of this device depends heavily on
* Touch screen usability: apple claims that they have patented and smart technology, we can only say if it really works after few months.
* Exclusiveness: of course it is OK in initial days, but hope there will be unlocked phones
* Price: Paying price of a computer for a phone, nah! it is not an easy sell. But then again, looking at iPod’s success, you never know.

Price point of this is probably too high for now and I dont like their exclusive deal with Cingular. But if it is what is hyped to be, then you are really see a new trend of common people avoiding PC altogether 😉

It also brings up an interesting thing, at one point everyone wrote off Apple because they adamantly controlled both hardware and software. Now, looks like tables have turned, it looks like everyone wants to control both (MS xbox, zune, sony ps, nokia, motoroala etc). Apple is showing it can be to your advantage.

It is pretty apt that they changed the name of the company to Apple inc. from Apple computers.