Daily TIPs: Texans Go Tiny, Borings Go to Court, Trolls Hit the Times, & More

8/1/08

Electric Cars Making Inroads

In a sign that the era of gas guzzlers may be ending, the Wall Street Journal observes that even in Texas, people are leaving their SUVs in the garage in favor of smaller electric cars. As the paper puts it, “You Know Gas Prices Are High When Texans Start Driving Golf Carts.” The story says the tiny vehicles take some getting used to, but people seem willing to switch given how much they save on gas.

Does Street View Really Violate Your Privacy?

A Pittsburgh couple has sued Google over its Street View feature, which contained a photo of the outside of their house. Aaron and Christine Boring say the feature lowered the value of their property and caused them mental suffering. A blogger at CNET News feels the Borings might be taking the notion of privacy a little bit too far.

Researcher Suggests Ways to Cope with NIH Budget

After doubling from 1998 to 2003, the budget for research at the National Institutes of Health has leveled off, leaving some researchers scrambling for funding. Now a demographer at the Alfred P. Sloan foundation is looking for ways to make the grant process less of a roller coaster, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education. Michael Teitelbaum wants a new NIH advisory committee to, among other proposals, look at revising the number of postdoc positions available.

Magazine Looks At Morally Questionable Internet Trolls

Here’s a chance to get a jump on a piece that will surely spur some discussion. The New York Times has published on its website a story from its upcoming Sunday magazine about Internet trolls who are, in the paper’s words, “part of a growing Internet subculture with a fluid morality and a disdain for pretty much everyone else online.”

California Loans Promote Solar Power

A law enacted this week allows cities and counties in California to make loans to homeowners wishing to install solar panels on their houses or upgrade to energy-saving appliances. According to the Los Angeles Times, the law allows residents to pay back the low-interest loans over decades through their property taxes. Lawmakers hope the program will boost the installation of solar panels, which can cost $15,000 to $30,000 per house.

Is Cleantech Too Green for VCs?

Venture capitalists are hot on the trail of new cleantech startups they can fund, scouting both academia and the national laboratories for promising technologies. But GigaOm wonders if some of these deals may be too green in another sense—not yet ripe enough for market. Some of the deals may take more than a decade to reach an exit point, much longer than the five to seven years VCs are used to.

Group Lobbies for Gore’s Energy Goals

The Alliance for Climate Protection, a group founded by Al Gore, is in Washington pushing Gore’s vision of an oil-free future. As Reuters reports, the group’s CEO, Cathy Zoi, says there are no technological obstacles standing in the way of clean power. Even with existing technologies, she argues, the average family could cut its energy use by 20 percent.

Open-Source Developers Should Speak to Security, Expert Says

Developers of open-source software need to redefine the way society responds to national security threats, Christine Peterson of the Foresight Institute told the OSCON open-source convention recently. Peterson called for the open-source community to start addressing issues from problems with electronic voting to threats from cyberterrorists abroad, Ars Technica reports. Without the community’s participation, she warned, the government will take the lead in addressing security threats, and may come up with top-down solutions the community won’t like.

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