General Commentary 2: batteries, cable, and government. Oh my.

Well, it’s time for another edition of interesting things that don’t really deserve their own post.

In this episode, we talk about batteries, big telecoms that own congress people, and the US State Department, for a freebie we’ll mention Amazon’s new service.


I’ve recently caught some flack from people who are anti-renewable energy.  Wind and solar aren’t constant, they complain.  You can’t guarantee energy from them, they complain.  (Click on renewable energy in the categories for the articles.)

Obviously, they are wrong.  It’s not like myself and hundreds of other scientists, engineers, and companies have been thinking about this for a few decades.  I’ve already posted about a giant 1GW battery pack being built in Mexico.  But this next system is quite interesting.  1 MW of power, in a shipping container.

Russia has, apparently, ordered 6 of the things to guarantee stable power during its upcoming Olympic Games.  But these are no different from cell phone batteries, just on a nearly epic scale.  Charge them when power is cheap or available (windy days for example) and then use them when the power isn’t flowing so much. 

What’s really neat is that these are just shipping containers with modified internals.  Stack some solar panels inside and drop a couple dozen on a transport, then take them to disaster areas. 

No word on cost, but I wouldn’t think cheap.  It’s still cool.  Don’t bother with the video in the link, it has really annoying music and just describes the assembly process.

Big Cable Companies Own Congress People Too!

The North Carolina house has passed H129, the so-called ‘Level Playing Field’ bill.

This bill will effectively prevent non-profit municipal ISPs and telecoms from competing with the big guys (Time Warner, AT&T, etc).  Basically, these big players are getting their butts kicked and instead of making the service better and cheaper, they are attempting to ban competitors.

In North Carolina (I wish here in Texas), some municipalities are offering ISP and telecom services.  One report I saw had $99.99 for 10Mbits up and down, home phone, and basic cable. While the local Time Warner is offering only half that speed and only basic cable for that price.

Let’s face, almost anything that prevents competition (and therefore innovation and price control) is bad.  What’s worse is that everyone recognizes that this bill only helps the big guys.  One representative, on the floor, stated it explicitly saying that this was “Time Warner’s bill”.

That’s right ladies and gentlemen, they are totally out to screw us.

The US State Department Helps Revolutionaries… Doesn’t Seem to Think it Through

Rueters reports that the US State Department has been developing apps and providing technical advising to revolutionaries in non-democratic countries.

One of the apps is a way for revolutionaries to keep in contact (riot in the square at 11) and also provides an emergency alert system.  Hit a button and everyone in your contact list gets a message that you’ve been nabbed, then the system deletes the contact list so that your phone doesn’t out your compatriots.

On the technical advising side, some revolutionists were apparently surprised that their laptops had more viruses than the CDC.  Including some keyloggers and remote access trojans. 

Personally, I question three things:

1) The $50 million price tag for these ‘services’ over the last few years.  I mean, the apps could have been written by a pair of guys over a weekend for the price of three pizzas and a case of colas.  The ‘technical advising’, heck I can download all that for free, one wonders why these guys can’t just get a copy of AVG or Norton?

2) What is going to happen when al-Qaeda, drug runners, and human traffickers get ahold of this software?  On the other hand, that’s where 3) comes in.

3) I’m not very trusting of government (see the cable thing above).  “Here’s a great app developed by the US to help you.”  Any person with an ounce of political acumen is going to wonder about this.  It would be child’s play to add their own key-loggers, remote access to mikes, speakers, and GPS systems to the software.  The potential ‘customers’ are obviously not technically sophisticated, so why would they worry about something like that?

Trading one big brother for another.

Amazon’s Totally Useless Cloud Service

In perhaps, what is the single worst business timing in the known universe, Amazon announces it’s cloud-based music (and potentially video) service.

In theory, this is pretty cool.  You can add purchased music to your own “cloud drive” or upload your own and listen to it anywhere on any computer or android device via streaming.  Yeah, that’s cool.  Now it is limited to 5 gigabytes (heck, even I have more music than that) or 20 gigabytes.

Of course, this comes less than a month after AT&T announces bandwidth limits on internet service.  Ooopsy.

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