Month: February 2010


Some more shots that I’ve taken with my new camera – I’m still not really getting on with it very well, I’ve deleted so many shots as soon as soon as I’ve taken them! Must try harder!



Google’s now an energy supplier in the US…


The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has granted Google Energy, a wholly owned subsidiary of the search giant, the right to behave like a utility.

The order grants Google Energy the power to sell energy, capacity and services at market rates.

Why does Google want to do this? Right now, the company rakes in billions of dollars from ads and it doesn%u2019t have to have extensive support desks and remote repair teams %u2014 the kind of people-power providers must have on staff %u2014 in order to do it. Selling power is a much more hands-on business.

Google has said it wants to go carbon neutral. With the FERC order, it can now effectively erect as many solar panels and install as many fuel cells as it likes without worrying about having purchased too much capacity; the company can now sell off the extra power it generates.

But more importantly, Google can now exploit its massive data centers to provide services for controlling power consumption in commercial buildings, industrial sites, and homes. It is largely a task that should be handed off to large computer rooms.

If the power goes out, you%u2019ll know who to blame

Providing these services will allow Google to better leverage its hardware resources. Search will get cheaper because the hardware budget can be amortized over more services. Both web 2.0 companies and energy-services companies will complain about being undercut by the big G. Consumers will also have to get used to Google having even more information about their daily habits.

But can Google charge for energy-management services? That could be a challenge. The average person might rightly balk at suddenly being asked to write a monthly check to one of the biggest companies in the world, particularly if other companies offer the same services.

This is where the power part comes in. Consumers will pay for power. If Google combines its services %u2014 for free %u2014 with competitively priced electricity, consumers will likely lose that reticence. It will be a better combination than what their utility can provide.

Conversely, Google could charge for these services the same way energy services companies like Siemens do: If Google saves you $200 on your utility bill, you pay the company half. You pay, but you still save. It%u2019s a theory, but clearly the company and its founders are obsessed with alternative energy.

See Also:

Booking a ski holiday? Avoid Alpine Elements…

If you’re booking a ski holiday, please think twice before going with Alpine Elements.

A group of us went away with them to Les Arc before Christmas and it wasn’t a great experience.
The apartment was dirty (there were condom wrappers and dirty underwear shoved down the back of one of the beds – ewww!), the poor girls employed by Alpine Elements to do the catering were so inexperienced and underprepared that they didn’t even know how to make coffee or porridge, they served up raw chicken for dinner and a Thai fish curry that was so gross it honestly defies description. The apartment was also missing some of the facilities (like a CD player and DVD player) that were advertised on the Alpine Elements website.

There was a load of other stuff too, but the main problem was how Alpine Elements have handled things and that’s why I’m blogging about it. I don’t enjoy being critical, but we feel like we’ve been treated badly by them.  We phoned and then wrote a letter to complain (after being told by Alpine Elements that their customer services team didn’t like to talk to people on the phone!). It took over two months to get a response. In their letter, Alpine Elements fobbed us off, implying that although they took our complaints seriously, the bad food was a matter of taste and that the other problems were just down to it being the beginning of the ski season.

To add insult to injury, Alpine Elements offered us £50 per person discount off our next booking with them. Why on earth would we want to go on holiday with Alpine Elements again after the experience we had? To me it seems like it’s their way of saying they don’t care much about what we think – if they really valued us as customers they’d have responded quickly, offered us a decent refund, rather than offering £50 that’s useless to us because we’ll never book with them again.

I’m sure not everyone who travels with Alpine Elements has a bad time, but I don’t think they show much respect for their customers – and I’m not alone, Google them and this forum about Alpine Elements is the third result – I just wish I’d seen it before we booked! Steer clear.

Pink mobile phones – ‘the ultimate statement about your sexual confidence’

Pink phones used to be unusual, but now they’re everywhere, in every colour from blossom to rose, bubblegum to candy heart, and palest peach to bright magenta.

Whether you’re a girly girl taking your fashion cues from Legally Blonde, a metrosexual man making the ultimate statement about your sexual confidence, or — more probably — you just like pink, the perfect phone is just a few clicks away. Click the numbers at the top to browse through our top 10, then let us know which ones you like best — and what we should have left out.

Doing some background research for some new content on mobile phones and found this absolutely incredible bit of copy…

iPhone app pitches climate change science against scepticism | Leo Hickman | Environment |

Skeptical Science iPhone app

The Skeptical Science iPhone app

I’m not sure this is going to quell the climate wars raging at present, but it’s an interesting development nonetheless. An Australian solar physicist called John Cook, who runs the popular Skeptical Science website, has developed an app which “lets you use an iPhone or iPod to view the entire list of skeptic arguments as well as (more importantly) what the science says on each argument”. So the next time you’re caught at the fag end of a wedding reception in an interminable one-way conversation with a reactionary uncle who’s boring on about how “the climate’s always changed”, just switch on this app, hand them your iPhone, and proceed to the bar.

In reality, of course, this is hardly likely to win round any sceptic, least of all your worse-for-wear uncle who, with or without the evidence presented to him by this app, will still continue to swear blind that climate change is a fiction made up by a clandestine world government-in-waiting because he’s read about it all on his favourite blog, which just so happens to be frequented by an army of other reactionary uncles. One suspects this app will only act to increase the polarisation between the two sides of this “debate”. (Still think a debate’s going on? When was the last time you heard someone from either side say, “Thank you for this information. Actually, I’d never thought of it like that before. I’m now prepared to change my mind on climate change.”)

For example, Climate Realists, a site manned by sceptics such as weatherman Piers Corbyn, is already jumping up and down in horror at the news of the app’s release:

“WARNING! There is an iphone app trying to put down what we have to say under the heading of ‘Skeptical Science’. We need as many of you as possible to promote that this iphone app is yet another attempt to discredit ‘Climate Realists’. We can only hope the general public can see through this as a cheap trick to prop up the FAILED SCIENCE OF MAN MADE CLIMATE CHANGE. Climate Realists need another iphone app that shows our side of the argument as it is, rather then what a supporter AGW thinks it is! Please send this message to all known friendly sites that support our side.”

This call to arms appears to have worked as the first reviews on the iTunes app store are deeply negative. This is what the reviewer “GabesiPod” said:

“This is app from an AGW [anthropogenic global warming] supporter and just supports his views and NOT the views of SKEPTICS! I find that iPhone apps have mislead people, in that, the name of the product is NOT what it is claimed to be. This is a cheap trick to support the FAILED SCIENCE OF AGW, AND HAS NO SCIENTIFIC VALUE. This app should be withdrawn!”

Just what is it with sceptics and their love of block capitals? So what does this app actually do that is proving so unpalatable to the folks at Climate Realists? This is how it works, according to Cook:

“You browse arguments via the Top 10 most used arguments as well as 3 main categories (‘It’s not happening’, ‘It’s not us’, ‘It’s not bad’). When you select one of the 3 main categories, a list of sub-categories pop up. You can then select any category to see the skeptic argument, a summary of what the science says and the full answer including graphs plus links to papers or other sources. A novel inclusion is a feature that lets you report when you encounter a skeptic argument. By clicking on the red ear icon (above left, shown to the left of the skeptic arguments or above right, next to the headline), the iPhone adds another hit to that particular skeptic argument.”

The app currently has rebuttals to 90 sceptic “arguments”, which include many of the classics, such as “There is no consensus”, “Models are unreliable”, “It hasn’t warmed since 1998”, “Ice age predicted in the 70s”, “CO2 lags temperature”, “It’s freaking cold!”, “CO2 is not a pollutant” and so on. According to the site, the most frequently cited sceptic argument is “It’s the sun”. You can read Skeptical Science’s rebuttal to this particular argument online .

This might shock some people, but I happen to agree with the sentiment underlying the request issued by Climate Realists for sceptics to build their own rival app.

I think it would be very constructive if they compiled a one-stop shop for all their arguments with full references and citations so that everyone could assess them calmly and dispassionately. This would be done away from the white heat of the blogosphere cauldron where people can make any claim they choose and know it has the ability to stick %u2013 as proved just this week with the shameless, wilful twisting by the Daily Mail of climatologist Phil Jones’s remarks to the BBC about whether there has been a statistically significant rise in global temperatures since 1995. I await with baited breath.