Category: Technology

Groundbreaking for Colorado’s largest solar farm


Same old stodgy photo opportunity — progressive results

Renewable Energy Systems Americas will construct Colorado’s largest solar farm, one that backers say will produce electricity more cheaply than natural gas-powered sources.

Broomfield-based RES expects to employ 300 to 400 workers to build the Comanche Solar project, which broke ground…7 miles south of Pueblo…

SunEdison, the world’s largest developer of renewable energy projects, raised $253 million for the project and will run the solar farm with four employees once it is operating.

The farm’s 500,000 panels will stretch across about 1,000 acres, with a capacity of 156 megawatts that will generate enough power to supply 31,000 homes, said Paul Gaynor, an executive VP with SunEdison…

Several factors contribute to lowering the project’s price tag and making it cost competitive with natural gas generation, Gaynor said. Those include economies of scale, existing roads in the area, and “plug-and-play” access to transmission lines serving a nearby power plant.

Public Service Company of Colorado, a subsidiary of Xcel Energy, has signed a 25-year purchase agreement with SunEdison…

Gaynor said SunEdison has additional wind and solar projects that it can bring forward when utilities in the state want to purchase more power generation.

Smart people in educated states keep on making smart long-range choices. Even while the most reactionary politicians on the planet keep on trying to turn energy-production back to the Dark Ages of King Coal.

The Humvee’s replacement — the Oshkosh L-ATV

…The US Army has picked its replacement for the aging vehicle originally designed as a Cold War replacement for the Jeep—and it comes from Wisconsin. Eventually, the Army and Marine Corps could buy nearly 55,000 of the vehicles over the next 25 years, spending over $30 billion.

In a move that will undoubtedly spur a spate of protests and political backlash from a heavily lobbied Congress, the US Army has awarded the Defense Department’s multibillion dollar Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) program contract to the contender from Oshkosh Defense, beating out the other finalists in the program, which started in November of 2006 — Lockheed Martin and the Humvee’s manufacturer, American General. The initial “low rate” order for 16,901 vehicles for both the Army and Marine Corps is worth $6.7 billion.

That’s a touch over $396K per copy!

Oshkosh’s winning design is called the L-ATV (for “Light Combat Tactical All-Terrain Vehicle”). It includes innovations that were added to the Humvee during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, including remote-operated weapons turrets (with heavy machine guns, automatic grenade launchers, and anti-tank missiles), and electronic warfare gear to jam remote controls for improvised explosive devices (IEDs). It will also be a rolling network unto itself, equipped to generate up to 10 kilowatts of “exportable” power for Army and Marine Corps communication and computer gear, with HF, VHF, UHF, and SATCOM onboard as well as a vehicle intercom system. There’s also a centralized onboard computer system powering “smart displays” for the soldiers or Marines it carries. The L-ATV will also be equipped with a variety of surveillance and threat sensors—including a shot locator system, long-range surveillance cameras, and low-light and infrared camera systems.

The L-ATV can be transported by heavy-lift helicopter or by the Marine Corps’ landing craft, but it’s a much bigger payload than the Hummer, with a curb weight nearly three times that of the older vehicle: about 14,000 pounds, compared to the Humvee’s 5,900 pounds. That extra mass is a combination of armor, electrical power and additional horsepower. Oshkosh won partially because of the proven performance of its M-ATV, a mine-resistant ambush protected (MRAP) vehicle it sold to the military as an urgent replacement for Humvees and trucks damaged by IEDs in Iraq and Afghanistan. But the L-ATV also has better fuel efficiency than the Humvee, and its suspension system allows for 70 percent faster off-road speeds.

I’m still a motorhead. Of course, that extends to every kind of motor vehicle including all terrain monsters like this. Though I’m pleased to see Oshkosh beat out the corporate dangerous duo who’ve been in bed with our military-industrial complex since before it was so named — no doubt I will have differences with specification, intent and design.

Some other time.

Rightwing nutball plotted to kill Muslims, Obama with death ray

A Ku Klux Klan member conspired to use a remote-controlled X-ray device hidden in a truck, which he called “Hiroshima on a light switch,” as a weapon of mass destruction to harm Muslims and President Barack Obama, a prosecutor told jurors on Monday…

In opening arguments at U.S. District Court in Albany, a lawyer for Glendon Scott Crawford, 51, of Galway, New York, said the device would have never been built if not for the government supplying the necessary components via “criminal” sources…

Crawford and Eric Feight were arrested in 2013 and charged in the plot to unleash radiation at a mosque in Albany and a Muslim school in nearby Colonie.

The men also planned to attack the White House, according to a recording of their May 2012 conversation played at the trial, in which Crawford described himself a Klansman and called the remote-controlled device “Hiroshima on a light switch.”

Feight, of Hudson, New York, pleaded guilty in 2014 to providing material support to terrorists…

Rodney Margolis, chief executive of the Jewish Federation of Northeastern New York, testified that Crawford tried to interest Jewish leaders in a “black-bag operation” that “would kill Israel’s enemies while they slept.”

Margolis said that Crawford scared him and he immediately called police. As a result, the FBI in Albany soon began surveilling Crawford at home and ultimately deployed a confidential source to further discuss Crawford’s scheme with him…

The dividing line between criminals and political activists is much closer together on the Right than many imagine. Especially if your brain is already confounded by what passes for conservative common sense, nowadays.

The Left has a long history of crazy bomb-throwing anarchists who justify their violence through one or another religion-like rationale about direct action. Rightwing thugs are simply that. They reject democracy, republican delegation of power as a sign of weakness. Not realizing the critical weakness is in their own minds.

Ignoranus Republicans think if your data is encrypted, the terrorists win

Jeb “I’m my own man” Bush sounds more and more like his know-nothing ex-president brother every day. This time, in between defending the Iraq War and saying he might bring back torture if elected president, he’s demanding that tech companies stop letting billions of the world’s citizens use encryption online to protect their information because of “evildoers.”

Bush’s comments echo the dangerous sentiments of FBI director Jim Comey, who has publicly campaigned against Apple and Google for attempting to make our cell phones and communications safer by incorporating strong encryption in iPhones and Android devices…

First of all, he seems to either be attacking, or just doesn’t understand, that the entire internet – and much of the economy really – is based around strong encryption. Every time he logs onto his email, uses online banking or wants to check his medical records online, there is some form of encryption that is protecting his data from criminals. So the fact that technology companies are “creating” encryption protects all of us

It begs the questions: how many candidates have technologists or computer scientists advising their campaigns? Given how almost every week there is yet another security breach at a major company, and that voters are concerned about their online privacy, you’d think at least some of the candidates would attempt to capitalize on it by merely having a coherent policy that does not make them sound like they’ve never touched a computer (or sent a fax) before without the assistance of their aides.

Strong end-to-end encryption is one of the best defenses against the massive cyber-attacks that have become all too frequent. If there is not a giant pile of data that is accessible by anyone, then the criminals can’t get it either.

As much as rightwing idjits prattle about hating big government they’re always in favor of using government to get in the way of individual privacy, free speech and free thought.

We get that crap daily from the FBI and the NSA. Two bodies with a long iron-clad history of rejecting privacy or civil liberties for anyone they want to sniff around. It doesn’t matter whether the White House or Congress is led by the vaguely liberal half of our 2-party electoral politics. The heads of our officially-chartered thought police are inevitably some flavor of proto-fascist creep.

Today’s Republican candidates for president nod their bobbleheads in agreement.

Computer scientists expose security flaw suppressed by Volkswagen

A major security flaw in more than 100 car models has been exposed in an academic paper that was suppressed by a major manufacturer for two years.

Flavio Garcia, a computer scientist at the University of Birmingham, and two colleagues from a Dutch university were unable to release the paper after Volkswagen won a case in the high court to ban its publication.

The research team discovered car manufacturers including Audi, Citroën, Fiat, Honda and Volvo, as well as Volkswagen, had models that were vulnerable to “keyless theft” because a device designed to prevent the vehicles from being stolen could be disabled easily.

After years of formal and informal negotiations, Volkswagen has agreed to the publication of the paper after accepting the authors’ proposal to remove one sentence from the original manuscript.

Garcia and his colleagues Roel Verdult and Bariş Ege, from Radboud University in Nijmegen, said they found several weaknesses in the Swiss-made immobiliser system, called Megamos Crypto. The device works by preventing the engine from starting when the corresponding transponder – embedded in the key – is not present.

But the researchers showed it was possible to listen to signals sent between the security system and key, making the vehicles vulnerable to “close-range wireless communication” attacks

The RAC said electronic security systems have improved car security as vehicle theft has fallen 70% in 40 years. However, the overall decrease hides a rise in electronic hacking of vehicles, which featured in four out of 10 car thefts in London last year.

The point of any hack like this is lies with manufacturers revising their security. Sounds like VW was more interested in trying to keep the hack quiet instead of a fix.

You know technology is a success when crooks figure out how to use it

drugs by drone

Ohio officials are investigating after a drone dropped a package full of illegal drugs into a prison yard, sparking a fight over the contraband.

The package was delivered to Mansfield Correctional Institution – a prison about 110 km southwest of Cleveland…

The box contained small amounts of marijuana, heroin and tobacco.

More than 100 inmates were in the prison yard when the fight broke out, but no inmates or staff were hurt.

Nine prisoners who were involved in the fight were placed in solitary confinement.

JoEllen Smith, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, said this is the latest in series of attempts to deliver prison contraband via drones.

Ms Smith said the agency is taking steps to stop drones before they enter the grounds of prisons.

I can see the advert, now: Guards wanted for prison duty. Must have experience at skeet shooting.

Har.

Track wildfires around the U.S.

Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 5.47.02 PM

Monitor wildfires with our interactive wildfires map. The flame icons represent wildfires currently active in the lower 48 states and Alaska. Hover over a given fire to see its name, and if you zoom in you’ll be able to see the outline of the area that’s burning — the so-called fire perimeter. If you click within the perimeter, a window pops up showing the fire’s size in acres, the amount by which the perimeter has grown or shrunk over the past 24 hours, the fraction of the fire that has been contained and other data. There’s also a link to an even more detailed report.

As temperatures warm and large parts of the U.S. become drier, wildfires are becoming more common and widespread — a trend likely to worsen thanks to climate change caused by human greenhouse gas emissions, as well as land use change and population growth. At the same time, population growth in and around lands that typically see wildfires may be responsible for increased losses from these blazes.

Worth checking out. Especially if you live – as I do – within a chunk of the prairie often threatened by wildfire.

How the Army designed the world’s weirdest meat

Can the United States Army claim credit for the McRib?

That bizarre fast-food creation has long been the subject of cultish adoration and surprisingly credible conspiracy theories (like the one that speculates its mysterious appearances are timed to low pork prices).

But the best speculation about the McRib may be a new theory about its origins: that it’s part of our lives thanks to the United States Army’s quietly revolutionary food lab, located in Natick, Massachusetts…

“What the Army develops is the backbone,” Anastacia Marx de Salcedo says. “The private companies make it more palatable for the consumer.”

She’s the author of Combat-Ready Kitchen: How the U.S. Military Shapes the Way You Eat, a new book that tracks Army food research’s wide influence on the culture at large. It’s a rollicking, yet encyclopedic, look at the Army’s role in everything from industrialized meats to energy bars. And that includes the restructured-meat masterpiece known as the McRib.

So, who gets credited for developing restructured meat?

…Marx de Salcedo identifies Dr. Roger Mandigo as one contender, who told Marx de Salcedo that in 1970, “the project was funded by the National Pork Council with the pork producers check-off fund … our original restructured pork was shaped like chops; McDonald’s adapted them for their McRibs.” Marx de Salcedo also notes the work of Dr. Dale Huffman, a professor who developed a restructured pork chop in 1969 that he originally tried to sell to Burger King.

But the most interesting contender might be…John Secrist, a food scientist at the Natick Soldier Center for Research and Development. That’s the place where the US Army develops its groundbreaking food for the troops as part of its Combat Feeding Program…Secrist told Marx de Salcedo that in the ’60s, Natick asked him and his team to develop a cheaper version of steaks and chops.

The Army then partnered with a meat flaking company in Ohio in order to break down meat and reassemble it into the meatlike blobs that are familiar today in the form of the McRib. Natick enlisted many meatpackers to do trial runs to see if the technology was viable, and as a result, it made its way to the private sector. “Denny’s used our restructured beefsteak in their restaurant,” Secrist said, “and McDonald’s McRib is as close to our product as you can get.”

The Army didn’t sit in McDonald’s kitchen and tell the chefs how to season their gloriously weird ribs. But Marx de Salcedo argues that they did provide the driving force to make restructured meat a commercial reality. Even Mandigo, the food scientist often credited with the McRib’s technology, told Salcedo that “the military allowed us to use the processes they developed.”

At least we can forget any stories about the McRib being developed at Area 51 from extraterrestrial technology, alien animals.

Or is that what we’re supposed to do?

On 25th July, Germany streamed 78% of its energy needs from renewable sources


Click to enlargeReuters/Fabian Bimmer

An ideal combination of sunny and stormy weather in different parts of Germany on July 25th allowed the country to meet 78% of its energy needs from wind, solar, and other renewable sources, a new national record.

The previous national record for renewable energy generated in a single day was set in May 2014, when 74% of Germany’s domestic energy needs were met by solar, wind, biomass, and hydro power.

Germany is aiming to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 80% before the year 2050. It’s also trying to cut down on its reliance on nuclear power, which it trades with France.

A blog post from Germany’s Energiewende…project explained what made the new record possible: A storm generated high winds in the north, where Germany’s wind turbines are installed; in the south, where its country’s solar panels are located, it was “a relatively sunny day.” Preliminary figures indicate that wind and solar generated a combined 40.65 gigawatts of power, 7.25 GW came from biomass and hydro power, and total domestic power demand that day was 61.1 GW.

Our government applauds American efforts because we’re capable of 7% replacement. Obama says we’re a world leader. Add in Congress’ contribution and I’d say we absolutely dominate the Liars’ Club.