Category Archives: Technology

Energy Crisis Called Off

Recent advances in technology for extracting natural gas from shale and methane beds have dramatically changed the global outlook on energy supplies.

The claims of BP and Statoil are so extraordinary that we may need to rewrite the geo-strategy textbooks for the next half century.

Please note: The free market is making these advances, without a trillion-dollar government program dictating outcomes.

Bell Labs Holmdel Facility

Last year I wrote about the sad fate of the former Bell Labs facility at Holmdel, and my personal experience with it. At that time, a developer had bought the property with the intention of converting it to a large residential, commercial, and retail complex.

I recently ran across this article in Preservation Magazine describing the battle that is currently being waged to save the site. The developer, Somerset Development, still wants to follow through on their original plan. However, the local civic leadership, fearful of the impact of such a mini-city on their quality of life, wants the entire structure to be razed.

The article includes a fascinating history of the building and the architect who designed it, Eero Saarinen.The article also recounts the memories of several former Bell Labs employees who once worked at the site, and still live in the area.

Ralph Zucker, the president of Somerset Development, says concerning the building,

We know this is too significant for Holmdel, for New Jersey—it’s a worldwide resource—it’s too important to get bogged down by political passions. When you come up here that’s when you know that you can’t let this thing be knocked down. It’s simply overpowering.

The Best is Yet to Come?

Michael Malone polishes his crystal ball and peers beyond the end of this economic downturn, to find out what the next “big ideas” will be in high tech. He likes what he sees.

For me, what is most exciting is the knowledge that, between e-Books, smart phones, cheaper and more ubiquitous data centers, and even greater access to the world’s information stores, it will soon be possible for even the poorest people in the world to join in the global marketplace, obtain any level of education they desire, and have access to the investment capital they need to realize their dreams.

Put all of those things together and, as dire as matters seem right now, we may well be on the brink of the greatest explosion in intellectual capital – new ideas, new inventions, new lifestyles, new institutions, new discoveries, new products and services – than the world has ever seen.

All we need to do is get out of our current doldrums and get back into the fight.

Why LEDs Are Not Yet Lighting Your Living Room

LED lighting technology has come a long way, but for the average consumer, it’s still not practical for anything more than flashlights. This article explains in simple language the technical challenge involved in making large LEDs.

Side note: My oldest son once worked for a corporation that was bringing LED light arrays into hospital operating rooms. It was doable, and quite good — but terribly expensive.

USB 3.0

When the Universal Serial Bus (USB) connection interface standard was introduced in 1996, it ushered in a whole new way of interacting with our computers. It replaced a hodge-podge of cables and connectors with a single, simple connector that allowed us to plug in keyboards, mice, printers, and other peripheral devices with a minimum of bother. The USB standard was upgraded to a 2.0 version several years ago, allowing faster speeds.

Now, USB 3.0 is in development, scheduled for release late next year or early 2010. This next generation USB will offer even faster speeds, up to 4.8 Gbps. That’s a ten-fold increase over the current version.

Once USB 3.0 releases, it will likely spell the end of the IEEE 1394 connection interface, aka “FireWire.” Apple has recently replaced FireWire ports with USB on some of its products, and this new standard will render FireWire’s superior speed irrelevant.

Mars Lander Going Into Hybernation

With the oncoming Martian winter reducing the amount of sunlight available for recharging its batteries, the Phoenix Mars Lander is having trouble phoning home.

But not to worry. As soon as Obama becomes President, the whole solar system will be bathed in perpetual sunlight, and all will be well.

XML vs. HTML 5.0

Scott Loginbill has an interesting piece on the (ever-so-slowly) emerging HTML 5.0 standard. If its more prominent features become standard across the major browser platforms, it will revolutionize the web.

I was especially intrigued by this perspective from Mozilla engineering VP Mike Shaver regarding the impact of HTML 5.0 on XML, a markup language that has taken the information world by storm in recent years.

Shaver says the HTML 5 movement was born out of impatience. Many sensed activity around web standards was stagnating as the W3C started directing its attention away from HTML and to another emerging technology, XML.

“A lot of new architectures — XML based work — were designed to replace HTML in the web,” says Shaver. “We were really not convinced that was the way it should go forward. We don’t think people should be throwing (web technology) away to get (the web) to go forward.”

If HTML 5.0 really does take off, this could set up a showdown between the two markup languages.