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Mac pros and cons

What are the pros and cons of owning a copy of Mac OS X 10.5 or 10.4? m Please leave a comment if you see this post and let me know what you think. I will be posting a round up post later to sum up what OS is best in what area. I am currently running Mac OS X 10.5 aka Leopard and I have not had any major problems. I think though that Leopard is not as stable as Tiger.

Sega Announces Sonic And The Black Knight

SEGA of Europe Ltd. and SEGA of America, Inc. today announced Sonic and the Black Knight, an all-new Wii-exclusive adventure. Part of the storybook series of games that began with Sonic and the Secret Rings, this new title brings Sonic into the world of Arthurian legend and offers the worlds most infamous blue hedgehog the chance to become a knight. Using the unique Wii control system, this exciting game will take advantage of both the Wii Remote and the Nunchuk to offer an interactive experience that any Sonic fans will love.

Created by Sonic Team in Japan, this innovative game takes Sonic into a medieval world and arms him with a sword to aid in his effort to save the day. Sonic and the Black Knight will provide Sonic fans with an irresistible cast of characters and teach them all what it takes to be a true hero and the ultimate knight. With a series of missions taking place in stunning Arthurian-inspired locations, Sonic and the Black Knight promises to offer a fast-paced adventure that gamers of all ages will enjoy.

"After the success of Sonic and the Secret Rings we’re delighted to announce a second title in the Storybook Series," said Gary Knight, European Marketing Director, SEGA Europe, "Following Sonic on his way to knighthood will excite players of all ages."

Sonic and the Black Knight, exclusively for the Wii, will be out in Spring 2009.

More information about the game can be found here.

Texas Embraces Wind Power

It seems that the state of Texas is embracing wind power in a big way. They have recently passed a comprehensive $4.93 Billion wind power transmission project that could when it is completed, provide power for up to 3.7 million homes.  Texas can already boast that it produces more electricity from wind power, than even California, which was one of the original pioneers of this energy producer. In an article from the NY Times it stated that:

“This project will almost put Texas ahead of Germany in installed wind,” said Greg Wortham, executive director of the West Texas Wind Energy Consortium.

Transmission companies will pay the upfront costs of the project. They will recoup the money from power users, at a rate of about $4 a month for residential customers.

Details of the plan will be completed by Aug. 15, according to Damon Withrow, director of government relations at the Public Utility Commission, which voted 2 to 1 to go ahead with the transmission plan. The lines will not be fully constructed until 2013.

Wind developers reacted favorably.

“The lack of transmission has been a fundamental issue in Texas, and it’s becoming more and more of an issue elsewhere,” said Vanessa Kellogg, the Southwest regional development director for Horizon Wind Energy, which operates the Lone Star Wind Farm in West Texas and has more wind generation under development. “This is a great step in the right direction.”

Ms. Kellogg said that the project would be a boon for Texas power customers, whose electricity costs have risen in conjunction with soaring natural gas prices across the state. “There’s nothing volatile about the wind in terms of the price, because it’s free,” she said.

As it has been pointed out by some who have previously posted on other wind powered articles I have written, when the wind doesn’t blow, no electricity is made. This is a given. However, this is a start in trying to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels.

What do you think. Is wind power one answer to our energy woes? Or should we build 100 new nuclear power plants that someone has mentioned recently in the news?

Comments welcome.


Hydrogen Vehicles Making Impressive Progress

A transition to hydrogen vehicles could greatly reduce U.S. oil dependence and carbon dioxide emissions, says a new congressionally mandated report from the National Research Council, but making hydrogen vehicles competitive in the automotive market will not be easy. While the development of fuel cell and hydrogen production technology over the past several years has been impressive, challenges remain. Vehicle costs are high, and the U.S. currently lacks the infrastructure to produce and widely distribute hydrogen to consumers. These obstacles could be overcome, however, with continued support for research and development and firm commitments from the automotive industry and the federal government, concluded the committee that wrote the report.

Light-duty vehicles, such as cars, SUVs, and pickup trucks, are responsible for 44 percent of the oil used in the United States and over 20 percent of the carbon dioxide emitted. Concerns over climate change, oil imports, and recent spikes in gasoline prices have spurred interest in the development of alternative fuels. In 2003, President Bush announced a $1.2 billion initiative to encourage development of hydrogen production technology and fuel cell vehicles, which are powered through a chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen and emit only water and heat as exhaust.

The committee estimated the maximum number of hydrogen vehicles that could be on the road in the coming decades, assuming that practical technical goals are met, that consumers want hydrogen cars, and that government policies are in place to help drive the transition from oil to hydrogen fuel. The findings therefore represent potential best-case scenarios rather than predictions.

According to the committee, it will take many years before hydrogen vehicles will significantly penetrate the light-duty fleet, even though technological developments have been progressing rapidly. Production of hydrogen vehicles could increase significantly by 2015. At this stage, their cost — although dropping rapidly — would still need to be heavily subsidized for consumers. The maximum practicable number of hydrogen vehicles that could be on the road by 2020 is 2 million, says the report. By 2023, the total cost of fuel cell vehicles, including the cost of hydrogen fuel over a vehicle’s lifetime, could become competitive with conventional vehicles. At that point, the number of hydrogen vehicles on the road could grow rapidly, to nearly 60 million in 2035 and 200 million by 2050.

The committee also calculated the investments, both public and private, that would be needed to make a complete transition from oil to hydrogen fuel. These costs include research and development, vehicle deployment, and establishing infrastructure. According to the committee, government support via strong policy initiatives as well as funding would be needed until at least 2023. The cost to the government would be about $55 billion between 2008 and 2023; private industry would be expected to invest $145 billion over that same time period. To put these numbers into perspective, the government subsidy for ethanol fuel could grow to $15 billion per year by 2020.

The shift toward hydrogen fuel would not have a large impact on oil usage or greenhouse gas emissions until hydrogen vehicles make up a significant portion of the market. If hydrogen vehicles eventually took over the market, there would be great decreases in both, although the overall effect on greenhouse gas emissions would depend upon how the hydrogen fuel was produced. The committee compared these reductions with those that might be achieved by either improving the fuel efficiency of conventional vehicles or by converting to biofuels. Because they can be implemented more rapidly, both of these options could produce reductions in oil use and emissions faster than hydrogen, but after about 2040, hydrogen would become more effective.

The greatest possible reductions would occur if biofuels, fuel-efficient conventional vehicles, and hydrogen vehicles are all pursued simultaneously, rather than seen as competitors. This "portfolio approach," if accompanied by government policies driving a transition toward reduced oil use and low-carbon fuels, could reduce greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks to less than 20 percent of current levels and could nearly eliminate oil demand for these vehicles by 2050, the committee said.

[Rebecca Alvania @ The National Academies]

Reclaimed Wastewater Benefits Florida’s Citrus Orchards

The Sunshine State has seen rapid growth in population during the last 50 years. The 1997 U.S. Census showed that the population of Florida increased more than five-and-a-half times from 1950 to 2000. Naturally, along with population increases, Florida is experiencing an increase in the amount of municipal waste. Studies confirm that the amount of wastewater generated by cities in Florida has increased more than fivefold since 1950.

Environmental concerns about pollution of surface waters by treated wastewater have caused many communities to consider alternate ways to use secondary-treated, or reclaimed, wastewater. Before 1986, the city of Orlando and Orange County were discharging wastewater into a creek that flows into Lake Tohopekaliga in central Florida. To address concerns that the process would affect the quality water in the lake, city and county officials, along with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, devised a plan to use the wastewater for agricultural irrigation.

According to a 2005 report by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, there are currently 440 "reclaimed water reuse systems" in Florida, irrigating thousands of acres of golf courses, public land, and residential landscapes with 2,385 million liters of reclaimed water per day. Reclaimed wastewater is also being used to irrigate some of Florida’s world-renowned citrus orchards. Because yearly rainfall in Florida is seasonal, with 75% of annual rainfall usually occurring between June and September, citrus growers rely on supplemental irrigation for healthy citrus crops.

In a study supported by the City of Orlando and Orange County (FL), researchers set out to determine whether long-term irrigation with treated municipal wastewater reduced citrus tree health, (appearance and leaf nutrient content), decreased fruit loads, impacted fruit quality, or created increases in soil contaminants. Dr. Kelly T. Morgan, a scientist at the University of Florida’s, Southwest Florida Research and Education Center, published the study report in the April, 2008 issue of HortScience.

Dr. Morgan explained, "Increased water use by the growing population and localized water shortages during low rainfall years have resulted in the development of water use restrictions and decreases in permitted water use for agriculture. Increased use of reclaimed water for agricultural irrigation would not only reduce the wastewater disposal problem for urban areas, but could also reduce the amount of water withdrawn from Florida’s aquifers used for irrigation."

The yearly monitoring project, which began in the 1990s and ended in 2004, concluded that using reclaimed water for irrigation of citrus orchards showed few detrimental effects on the orchards. Morgan commented, "Appearance of trees irrigated with reclaimed water was usually better, with higher canopy, leaf color, and fruit crop ratings than orchards irrigated with groundwater. Although there was higher weed growth in reclaimed water-irrigated orchards due to higher soil water content, growers apparently have made adequate adjustments to their herbicide practices."

Researchers concluded that long-term citrus irrigation with high-quality reclaimed water on well-drained sandy soils did not significantly reduce tree viability or yield and required relatively little adjustment in crop production practices: good news for the environment and citrus producers alike.

The complete study and abstract are available on the ASHS HortScience electronic journal Web site.

[Michael W. Neff @ American Society for Horticultural Science]

Japanese iPhone 3G Have Loud Shutter Sound

On the Japanese model of Apples popular iPhone 3G. the new phones have a loud shutter speed sound, when a picture is taken. The reason is that they are hoping that this loud sound will discourage some people from taking sneak shots up the dresses of ladies. Other companies are also adding this feature to their models as well. According to this article:

In Japan, upskirt and downblouse shots have become increasingly popular with the advent of high-resolution camera phones.

As a result, all cell phones sold in Japan make a conspicuous shutter sound, or say the word “cheese” when a snap is taken, according to Nobuyuki Hayashi, a tech reporter based in Tokyo. On almost all new cell phones, the camera shutter sound can not be muted, Hayashi says.

“Some manufacturers have even put louder shutter sound,” he reports.

The shutter on the first iPhone sold in Japan could be muted in silent mode; an anomaly that many wondered whether Apple would correct in the iPhone 3G, Hayashi says.

Apple did: The shutter sound cannot be turned off, even in silent mode, Hayashi says.

Interesting. So if a sneaky guy wants to take a quick shot under a dress or of a ladies front, the loud shutter noise is going to scare him off and prevent this from happening. If this is the case, than why isn’t this a standard feature for all iPhone 3G models? Which begs to question. Why isn’t this on all iPhones? Do we have less perverts here in the US than the Japanese have?

Comments welcome.


Computer Industry Is Not Bullish On Small Computers

The next wave of small computers is set to hit the market place, with tens of millions being sold during the last half of 2008. But the computer industry is not excited about these new devices, since they view these smaller systems will cut into their already slim profit margins. Since some of these units sell for $300 or less, the industry sees smaller profit margins on these new netbooks. But according to one article, companies like Dell, Acer & HP are not going to let the new guys steal the market place.

The companies that pioneered the category were small too, like Asus and Everex, both of Taiwan.

Despite their wariness of these slim machines, Dell and Acer, two of the biggest PC manufacturers, are not about to let the upstarts have this market to themselves. Hewlett Packard, the world’s biggest PC maker, recently sidled into the market with a hybrid of a notebook and netbook that it calls the Mini-Note.

Several makers are taking the low-powered PCs one step further. In the coming months, they are expected to introduce “net-tops,” low-cost versions of desktop computers intended for Internet access.

A Silicon Valley start-up called CherryPal says it will challenge the idea that big onboard power is required to allow basic computing functions in the Internet age. On Monday it plans to introduce a $300 desktop PC that is the size of a paperback and uses two watts of power compared with the 100 watts of some desktops.

It wants to take advantage of the trend toward “cloud computing,” in which data is managed and stored in distant servers, not on the actual machine.

These new netbooks also offer something else that their larger brothers also do not. First their is energy efficency dues to their smaller size and greener cpu’s from Intel. Also most of these netbooks will be using Microsoft Windows XP or a varient of Linux.

In addition there may, just may, be another benefit of these mini-computers for us consumers. If sales of the little guys take off, the large companies could lower prices further on their larger laptop systems down the road. We will see if this happens during the Christmas season this years. One example of lower pricing was the sale Wal-Mart had last weekend for a Toshiba system for $398. The system itself was well featured except for the anemic Celeron processor which is not a power house when it comes to running Vista.

What do you think? Will you buy one of the mini computers or will you stick with the bigger laptops?

Comment welcome.


Researchers Discover A Gene That Regulates And Blocks Ovulation

A group of Canadian and European researchers have unlocked the mystery of a gene with the potential to both regulate and block ovulation. The new study — a collaboration between the Universite de Montreal in Canada and the Institut de genetique et biologie moleculaire et cellulaire of the Universite de Louis Pasteur, Strasbourg, France — is published in the latest issue of the journal Genes & Development.

"Our findings demonstrate that the Lrh1 gene is essential in regulating ovulation," said Bruce D. Murphy, director the Animal Research Centre at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and an adjunct professor of and obstetrics and gynaecology at the Faculty of Medicine of the Universite de Montreal. "Until this point, the role of Lrh1 in female fertility was unclear, but we have found the gene regulates multiple mechanisms of ovulation and may affect fertilization."

To reach their conclusions, the research team developed a new type of genetically modified mouse whose Lrh1 gene was selectively blocked in the ovary. They found that deletion of the Lrh1 gene effectively stopped ovulation. "This discovery means we can envision new contraceptives that selectively stop ovulation," said Dr. Murphy. "If created, these new contraceptives would be more effective and produce less side-effects than current steroid-based forms of birth control."

What’s more, the findings could lead to the development of pharmaceuticals that activate the Lrh1 gene, which may prove critical in giving infertile couples hope in producing children. "This is an important development, since 15 percent of couples are infertile," said Dr. Murphy. "The widespread role of this gene in the ovary indicates that it may be targeted to stimulate ovulation and, eventually, conception."

[Sylvain-Jacques Desjardins @ University of Montreal]

A Better Flat Panel Display

Microsoft Research has come up with a pixel design for a flat panel display that will be faster, brighter, more power efficient, and easier and simpler to fabricate, which should make it cheaper. Each pixel switches in 1.5 milliseconds, compared to 20 – 45 ms in LCD displays. For more info, check this article from Technology Review.com and this blurb from Microsoft Research.

David Duval: A Familiar Name Playing on a Sunday

The British Open finished on Sunday with Padraig Harrington on top of the leader board. With a final of three over par, Padraig Harrington successfully defended his previous championship. There were other notable storylines at the Open. Tiger Woods was not playing. Greg Norman finished in a tie for third place. It was a surprisingly rewarding weekend for Greg Norman. He showed that a champion in his early fifties still can be competitive. His performance at the Open earned Greg Norman over a half a million dollars. It is a nice way for him to celebrate his recent wedding to Chris Evert, the former tennis star.

An intriguing story is far off the leader board. It is David Duval. He made the cut and played well, except for one day. At one time, David Duval was one of the world’s top golfers. He came to the Open ranked at 1,087th. It has been a numbing fall from the pinnacle of the sport.

David Duval was known for his efficient game management, relentless work habits and his wrap around sunglasses. He seemed distant from the galleries that followed him. Nevertheless, David Duval is introspective, perceptive and well spoken. He has been a previous winner of the British Open, in 2001. Injuries have had a devastating role in altering David Duval’s golf game. The effects of the injuries had an impact on David Duval’s swing and his ball-striking. It has been a struggle for him to regain even a semblance of his former game.

There have been times in recent years when it was questionable whether David Duval was still a touring professional. However, this weekend, there was a glimpse of what David Duval can do one a golf course. On the par 70 Royal Birkdale Golf Club, David Duval had the following rounds:

  • Day One: 73
  • Day Two: 69
  • Day Three: 83
  • Day Four: 71

With the exception of that high score on Day Three, David Duval might have been in contention. David Duval’s earnings for the Open were slight above thirty three thousand dollars. A tie for thirty ninth place is a far cry from the million and a half dollars that Padraig Harrington claimed, as the tournament winner. However, the Open showed that David Duval still can be competitive.

One can’t help but hope that David Duval can put four good rounds together on some Thursday to Sunday – and perhaps have a string of good weekends. He has struggled to regain his golf game. It would be fitting if David Duval could beat the odds and finish his playing career on his own terms. No doubt that Mr Duval believes he can.

Catherine Forsythe