Daily TIPs: Scanning Palms, Blogging Freely, Powering Down, & More

8/18/08

Political Blogging is Free Speech, FEC Rules

A blogger can tout a particular political candidate, even coordinating with the campaign, without being subject to campaign finance restrictions, the Federal Elections Commission has ruled. A Hillary Clinton supported had alleged that Gordon Fischer, the former chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party, had coordinated his criticism of Clinton with Barack Obama’s campaign, reports Online Media Daily. The FEC said even if he had, which it did not believe, Fischer’s comments are protected by the First Amendment.

Palm Scans Come to the U.S.

Infrared scans that verify identity by making a map of the veins in a person’s palm will be required for all people taking the Graduate Management Admissions Test next year. Discovery News says this is the first use of this technology in the United States, although ATMs in Japan have been using it for about five years. A palm scan is considered more secure than a fingerprint, because it can’t be lifted from an object as easily as a fingerprint and it requires a live hand with active blood flow.

New Optical Cables Predict Economic Boom

Undersea optical cables being planned to increase bandwidth in connections to China and India could be the harbingers of a new economic boom, predicts Om Malik of GigaOm. He says the trend is similar to that in the 1990s, when lots of capacity was created linking North America, Europe, and Japan, leading to economic growth, though overbuilding eventually turned that into a bust. He says new cables are like new roads or sea lanes, an indicator of growing economic activity.

Google Pushing for Approval of White Space

The Federal Communications Commission is considering making unused portions of the broadcast spectrum reserved for television available to unlicensed users, and Google is trying to rally public support for the proposal. Google wants that so-called white space to be used for the next generation of WiFi, according to TechCrunch. Critics worry new mobile devices will lead to interference, however.

Intel to Discuss Power-Saving Chip

Intel will be explaining its upcoming processor chip, known as Nehalem, at this week’s Intel Developer Forum. As CNET News explains, the details of the chip’s architecture may be too esoteric for most people, but they’re expected to lead to efficiencies that lower the chip’s demand for power, thus extending battery life. Also on the agenda is Atom, a mobile chip that will draw 2.5 watts of power, down from the 35 watts in most of Intel’s mobile processors.

Open Source Companies Having a Tough Time

Open source software has led to better, cheaper applications. But the major providers of open source, such as Red Hat and Novell, have not profited much from such innovations, reports BusinessWeek. Instead, it’s the tech giants such as IBM, HP, and Oracle that are making all the money.

Wastewater Technique Makes Ethanol Cheaper

By borrowing a technique used in wastewater treatment plants, scientists from Washington University say they can make ethanol production more efficient. The technique involves mixing waste from the ethanol plant into an oxygen-free vat of bacteria, which digest the waste and produce methane gas, according to Technology Review. Capturing the methane and burning it as fuel could allow the production facility to cut its use of natural gas in half.

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