Monday, March 31, 2008

Global Warming - Reactive Recycling vs. Proactive Adaptation

So California is banning incandescent light bulbs. They are inefficient light sources and expensive, so it's a good thing. But what impact will this have on global warming? If all the bulbs in California were replaced with CFLs would that offset the amount of CO2 expended by coal mine fires in SE Asia & China? All the "feel good" hoopla amounts to less than 1% of the impact of a growing coal & oil world wide economy. Add don't forget the Tata Nanocars in India.

If reducing carbon footprints is a pointless do-gooder spin, then what should we be doing?

How about engineering the adaptation of inevitable warmer climates in two major categories: prediction and amelioration. Over the next fifty years any attempt to reduce global warming through CO2 reductions will not reduce the actual increase already underway, only the ultimate rate of increase. But we have time to mitigate the impact.

Over the next 100 to 200 years, there may be engineering solutions on a global scale that could ameliorate the cause - a global thermostat in essence - to regulate global temperatures. How about self-replicating/repairing nano-structures in fixed orbits. Block enough solar energy at the equator to lower temperatures by 1 or 2 degrees C. Equatorial sunglasses!

By the way, if the Yellowstone Caldera explodes (it's about 50,000 years overdue) the ash and sulfuric acid will global lower temperatures to sub-freezing for several years. Global warming will cease to be a worry since Mankind and animal kind will go the way of the dinosaurs.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Will online ads play on the family TV?

Perhaps the first question should be is their a family TV. There may be a TV in every room of the house, but the family may be equally dispersed to every room in the house. That is a trend, but I would guess in homes across American there are multiple family members in one room of the house watching TV.
And the $200B TV advertising marketing devotes a lot of attention to them.

The 30 second ad in spurts of 4 to 8 every few minutes in a typical TV show. If you own a DVR you press pause and go back to your laptop computer or your reading material or leave the room for a few minutes, then return to fast forward to the resumption of the program.

I have a 30-second jump button. I prefer it simple FF because it is more precise at taking you to the resumption point. Maybe the networks are achieving subliminal impact on me and others who see the commercials at the equivalent of 500 frames/sec?

Survey data for online video says that people are tolerant of 15 second pre-roll ads. But what happens when 12 of them run consecutively? Some videos are introducing mid-roll ads. Are we headed to same ad distribution of broadcast television advertising?

Perhaps, but the internet is interactive. The opportunity exists to create an advertising environment that builds brand success and does not get ignored by the next virtual-DVR.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Proportions out of proportion

The war in Iraq has taken the life of 4000 American soldiers in 5 years. Car accidents have taken the lives of 200,000 Americans over the same time frame. The number of children lost in that number surely exceeds 4,000 - but you never hear about it. Are car accidents an act of God, while War is an act of Bush?
Children fare worse with cancer. I don't know and I don't even want to know that statistic but I'm sure it surpasses 4000 every year, maybe every every month. A typical cancer drug will take 10 years and $100M to develop and process through the FDA trials. Then more years pass while FDA ponders if someone will get "called on the carpet" for approving a drug too early.
Ditto for drugs to fight drug resistant bacteria. XDR-TB and MSRA are ticking time bombs.
Oh, and under current funding, Pentagon spends $100M on the war in Iraq every six hours.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

To Swerve and Protect

A beautiful Sunday turned tragic for three innocent cyclists by an out-of-control car. Were the cyclists riding three abreast or doing other "crazy stuff" as Leslie Griffy, writer for the San Jose Mercury News implied online Sunday? That we know to be untrue. Was deputy James Council asleep at the wheel, as he was overheard to say by several witnesses? Was he hung over from partying all night? We may never know since there is still no indication that a breathalyzer test was administered. We do know that he had two previous drunk driving arrests in Los Angeles (though he was not and will never be an LA County Sheriff's deputy).

We also know that he did not administer CPR to any of the victims as Sgt. Don Morrissey proudly told the media Sunday - all of whom regurgitated it to the general public that night. Kristy Gough's riding partner tried to render aid while she lay dying from a severed limb and massive head injuries, while the deputy in question wandered around muttering that his "life was over".

I was almost there Sunday. I rode up Stevens Canyon road a little after 10am, but decided to turn left at McClellan - something I rarely do - instead of riding up the canyon. I took the back way to Saratoga and up Big Basin way. Immediately after turning right on Pierce Rd., I was passed by a sheriff deputy in a white SUV going about 45mph up the hill on the wrong side of the road. No lights. No siren. I wondered at the time where in the hell he was going at that speed, and I was glad I was not descending Pierce Rd. in the other direction. Twenty minutes later I reached the roadblock and found out why the SUV was in such a hurry. They needed to do damage control and get deputy Council away from scene before he blurted any more self-incriminating statements.

As I rode up the canyon today, the slower speeds of the quarry trucks were noticeable. They typically roar down the road at 40+ mph. Today they were going 20MPH and making wide passes around cyclists. I'm sure they don't want to be ticket fodder for the obvious presence of the sheriff's department. I counted four deputies within two miles of the scene today. Stevens Canyon might be the safest place to ride this week.

3 feet, not 33.

One of my pet cycling with cars peeves is how people pass a cyclist on the road.

Let's start with the assumption that the bicyclist is on the side near the edge of the road. Let's further assume that a white line-marked shoulder exists and no part of the cyclist or his bike extends outside the white stripe.

A car approaches in a lane that is typically 18 feet wide - approximately 8 wider than the car. If the car manages to drive "straight down the middle" leaving an equal distance between the yellow stripe and the white strip, the car will "miss" the cyclist by 4 feet. That's plenty for me, but some riders would prefer a little more.

The car usually prefers a lot more. A typical reaction is to edge over toward the yellow line. Putting the left tires on the yellow will provide up to 8 feet of clearance between the auto and the cyclist. This is the safest approach for all. It's in the California Driving Handbook. But here's the rub. Most cars prefer to put the right tires to the left of the yellow line. That leaves 18 feet or more of clearance - great you say. You probably do it yourself. But how much space are you leaving for the cyclist coming from the "other direction". ZERO or less than ZERO. And they compound the ensuing head-on collision by accelerating as if they were passing a semi-truck on I5.

It gets worse if the road has a double yellow stripe - for no passing. Now you are leaving no room for the oncoming car. If a car is right around the bend, someone (probably the cyclist) is going to get killed.

I see this at least once an hour on Bay Area roads. I have been the "bike coming from the other direction" twice where the car is not only in my lane, his tires are off the road on my side of the road. I almost rode off a cliff the last time it happened on Page Mill Road. I NEVER go down Page Mill Road on a weekend.

Someone in the California Assembly tried to pass a law requiring 3 feet of clearance when passing a bike. Who (TF) is going to measure that? Negative numbers are easy to measure - in blood and mayhem. Almost as useless as the "no talking on the cellphone while driving" law. The chance of getting a ticket for talking on the cellphone while driving in the bike lane are lower than your chances of winning the lottery. Only laws that put offenders in jail for YEARS for injuring or killing another human being with their car are the answer.

bits, packets and cars

I live in the Silicon Valley, the birthplace of microprocessors and internet routers. The interconnect complexity of an Intel processor has been equated to a street level map of the US. Information, in the form of electronic charge, is managed and moved around this "mega city" at speeds of 20 million miles / hour.

Internet packets are routed around the world primarily on Cisco routers. The latest products can switch 256Gbps - more than all the cars on the planet moving thru one intersection every second.

So riddle me this. Why are the traffic lights in Silicon Valley so "19th century"? How many times have you been sitting at a red light along with 50 others cars from three directions while NO cars are moving with the Green light. You sit and wait until an unlucky car proceeds toward the green tripping it to red.

You can not proceed until someone else has to stop. The traffic lights are designed to maximize stopping - not traffic flow.

The engineers at Intel or Cisco could improve traffic flow in the valley by 15% to 30% by simply making one car wait an extra five seconds so twenty cars don't sit for 90 seconds. What do you think the savings in gas mileage would be? What would the savings in pollution be? The answers are obscene. The savings would far offset the cost of extra sensors 500 feet up the road from the intersections.

But maybe traffic engineers aren't so dumb. Maybe the money at Unocal or Chevron determines the optimization strategy, i.e. maximize gas consumption not traffic flow.

The future of TV, Advertising and 21st century consumption

Tivo/DVR killed the embedded ad.

Lots of advertisers, Lots of content providers vying for the eyeballs. Pre-roll, Post-roll, pay-per-ad-viewing. Get paid to watch Ads (pay less for content with ads).
Place ads where "you" think they will be watched and get a cut from the ad creator.

Clearing houses match Ads with Publishers. Engagement matters more than impressions.
Clicks don't matter when you're leaning back watching big screen TV. How will web ads be watched on widescreen TV - because people will watch web media on widescreen TV.
And not just Movies on Demand - but videos and mashup channels and made for the web media of all types.

If I see the Ad and I think my social net should see the ad as well I take some action. I vote for the ad - thumbs up/thumbs down - like a StumbleUpon website, or I share the Ad on Facebook, Hi5, Myspace, MySocialClique, etc. I get paid, the media carrying the ad gets paid. The Ad creator gets rewarded by creation of customer awareness. Videos are rated by the quality of the embedded Ads, including product placement.

Consumers exist to consume. In the 21st century what we consume is intangible media. The hardware is free approximately. Mediators add value when they can measure consumption of intangible assets. Facilitators add value when they can reduce friction in the chain of consumption - find it, watch it and how.

Even MicroHoo's Get the (Vista) Blues

Last year I bought a MacBook - the best personal computer I have ever owned (and I started with one of the early IBM PC clones, from by Texas Instruments - dual floppy, no HD). The Mac runs programs I was familiar with (with VMWare) and allowed me to quickly learn new applications. My productivity jumped while my friends productivity went backwards with Vista. The following article from the New York Times, March 9, 2008 speaks volumes.

Here’s one story of a Vista upgrade early last year that did not go well. Jon, let’s call him, (bear with me — I’ll reveal his full identity later) upgrades two XP machines to Vista. Then he discovers that his printer, regular scanner and film scanner lack Vista drivers. He has to stick with XP on one machine just so he can continue to use the peripherals.

Did Jon simply have bad luck? Apparently not. When another person, Steven, hears about Jon’s woes, he says drivers are missing in every category — “this is the same across the whole ecosystem.”

Then there’s Mike, who buys a laptop that has a reassuring “Windows Vista Capable” logo affixed. He thinks that he will be able to run Vista in all of its glory, as well as favorite Microsoft programs like Movie Maker. His report: “I personally got burned.” His new laptop — logo or no logo — lacks the necessary graphics chip and can run neither his favorite video-editing software nor anything but a hobbled version of Vista. “I now have a $2,100 e-mail machine,” he says.

It turns out that Mike is clearly not a naïf. He’s Mike Nash, a Microsoft vice president who oversees Windows product management. And Jon, who is dismayed to learn that the drivers he needs don’t exist? That’s Jon A. Shirley, a Microsoft board member and former president and chief operating officer. And Steven, who reports that missing drivers are anything but exceptional, is in a good position to know: he’s Steven Sinofsky, the company’s senior vice president responsible for Windows.

Their remarks come from a stream of internal communications at Microsoft in February 2007, after Vista had been released as a supposedly finished product and customers were paying full retail price. Between the nonexistent drivers and PCs mislabeled as being ready for Vista when they really were not, Vista instantly acquired a reputation at birth: Does Not Play Well With Others. Randall Stross, 2008.

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