Daily TIPs: Stupid Cloud Computing, Lying E-mail, Laughable Politics, & More

9/30/08

Cloud Computing: Stupid or Genius?

Richard Stallman, a computing expert and founder of the Free Software Foundation, thinks that cloud computing—running applications over the Internet using distant machines—is a lot of hype and poses a serious risk to privacy. Others, such as tech publisher Tim O’Reilly, however, acknowledge some challenges but see cloud computing as the future of the Internet. Ars Technica talks to experts and questions whether Stallman’s pessimism is warranted.

Engine Could Provide Energy for Hybrid Vehicles

Engineers are looking at an alternative to hydrogen fuel cells or conventional engines in hybrid vehicles, an efficient design called a free-piston engine. As Technology Review explains, a free-piston engine has no mechanical connection between the piston and the crankshaft, which reduces friction and makes for a more efficient engine. In fact, researchers believe it could be far more efficient in producing electricity than either conventional generators or newer fuel-cell technology.

Power from Osmosis and Other Green Ideas

Plenty of people are coming up with and patenting ideas for alternative energy sources, and New Scientist takes a look at some recent innovations. For instance, an osmotic power generator uses a membrane to separate fresh water from a solution of ammonia and carbon dioxide in water, and the resulting pressure drives a turbine to produce electricity. Another company has come up with a wireless headset that recharges its battery as the wearer moves her head.

Web Influences Political Discourse

This year’s presidential election is unprecedented in the amount of influence the Web seems to be having on disseminating both news and opinion about the candidates (as well as a fair share of mockery). BusinessWeek attributes the trend in part to a fundamental shift in how people follow news. The magazine includes its list of the 25 most influential people on the Web, a survey that includes Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer and The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart.

Take a Fast Cable to China

A fiberoptic cable running under the Pacific from the U.S. to China was completed Monday. CNET News reports that the cable, which runs 18,000 kilometers and costs upwards of $500 million, was put in place after the 2006 earthquake that caused a deadly tsunami severed several undersea data lines. The cost was split among six phone companies.

Magnifying Glasses Make for Cheap Solar Energy, Firm Says

A startup claims it can make solar power as cheap as coal power by using glass panels that focus sunlight onto photovoltaic cells. Sungri, of Hollywood, CA, says it wants to be the Wal-Mart of solar energy. The trick, according to Wired, is an innovative cooling system that prevents the concentrated sunlight from melting the silicon in the solar panels.

Don’t Believe Your E-mail

Psychologists have long known that people find it easier to lie in writing, where there are no visual clues to give away their deceptions. Now two studies, at Lehigh, Rutgers, and DePaul universities, say people are more apt to mislead in e-mail than in traditional pen-and-paper communication, CNN reports. On the other hand, we have it on good authority that the Minister of the Treasury in Nigeria is absolutely reliable.

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