Daily TIPs: Biking with Batteries, Tracking Your Cell, Tracking Stem Cells, & More

8/8/08

Electric Bikes Look More Appealing

A new generation of electric bicycles hasn’t quite caught on yet, but if gas prices continue to rise, they just might, one dealer tells the Chicago Sun Times. This isn’t your father’s moped; the new bikes have smaller motors and batteries that can propel riders for 20 miles before recharging, with top speeds near 20 mph.

Cell Phone Locations Should be Private, Groups Argue

It should take a warrant for the government to get a person’s cell phone location data, four groups are arguing in a court brief. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Center for Democracy and Technology, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the ACLU of Pennsylvania filed the brief challenging a government attempt to obtain location data from cell phone companies, Ars Technica reports. The groups say the records reveal people’s location even when they’re in private spaces, and should be subject to Fourth Amendment protections against illegal search and seizure.

Group Opposes Broadband Throttling or Metering

Network congestion is only sporadic, not widespread, and should not lead to either blocking of peer-to-peer file exchange or tiered pricing plans, the media reform group Free Press argues. GigaOm says the group has released a new report casting doubt on what Internet service providers are saying about the level of congestion. GigaOm’s writer wonders if such plans are just an attempt by ISPs to make more money.

New Stem Cell Lines Allow Study of Diseases

Harvard scientists say they have used people’s skin cells and bone marrow to create lines of stem cells bearing the mutations that cause 10 genetic disorders, the Discovery Channel reports. The new lines will allow researchers to study such diseases as Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, and Down syndrome.

Defense Department Marches US Toward Green Living

The Department of Defense, which accounts for 1.5 percent of U.S. energy consumption, wants to get greener, and hopes its efforts will translate into benefits for civilian society as well, Reuters says. The military wants 25 percent of its energy to come from renewable sources by 2025. Among their goals are the development of portable solar and wind power stations.

Social Networks Vulnerable to Scams, Researchers Warn

Facebook, MySpace, and their ilk are becoming increasing popular for identity thieves and purveyors of malicious software, several speakers at the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas said this week. The Washington Post’s Security Fix blog says the raft of user-created applications on these sites are prime candidates for spreading malware. On the other hand, one speaker warned that staying off such sites gives scammers the opportunity to create a fake profile for you and use it against your friends.

Three Ways for Next President to Improve Cybersecurity

Both presidential candidates have mentioned the need for security in cyberspace but have tackled few details. Now a columnist at Wired is offering some broad advice on what the next president can do. His suggestions: Use government buying power to require secure machines and software, legislate the results and not the methods to achieve security, and invest broadly in research.

Dell Claims Carbon Neutrality

PC Maker Dell says it is officially carbon neutral, five months ahead of its own deadline. Dell says it improved energy efficiency at its facilities and invested in 645 million kilowatt hours of electricity generated by wind power in the U.S., China, and India, CNET News reports. At least one analyst, though, questions whether it’s possible for a company to be truly carbon neutral.

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