Wave-power buoy tested off Scotland exceeds expectations

A wave power developer has said tests of a device off Scotland’s coast exceeded expectations. US-based Ocean Power Technologies (OPT), which also has offices in Warwick, Warwickshire, deployed the machine from Invergordon, Easter Ross…

OPT has also been developing wave energy devices for powering US Navy and Marine Corps bases.

The tests off Scotland are mentioned in the company’s latest financial results. It said initial reported power levels for the system had outperformed expectations.

OPT added: “The company believes the capacity factor represented by these results exceeded that experienced by most other renewable sources.

Wave power is a natural, of course, for lots of active coastal waters. And my experience with oil-drilling platforms tells me it’s great for recreational and sport-fishing as well.

South Sudan joins the symbolic world of international football

Dark clouds had gathered over Juba’s renovated football stadium, but for the 15,000 people who had turned up in South Sudan’s capital it was a time for celebration.

A little under 24 hours after South Sudan became the newest country on earth after declaring its independence from Khartoum — a bloody battle it had waged intermittently since the 1950s — the first true test of the fledgling republic took place.

On July 10, South Sudan played its very first international football match, becoming not just the youngest nation on earth, but the youngest national football team too.

“We were all very emotional as it was the first time that our national team played, singing the national anthem,” recalled Makuac Teny, Minister for Sport in the newly-formed South Sudan government.
South Sudan becomes newest U.N. member state

Like the rest of the crowd, he had gathered to watch his team take on Kenyan Premier League side Tusker F.C. for a match whose result, for once, wasn’t important. “It was the first time our song was heard,” explained Teny…

“The honor goes to Kenya, the first country to hear the national anthem of Sudan. They honored us. That was a win in itself, to hear the national anthem played. Although they won 3-1, I knew the flag of Southern Sudan would be raised.”

Bravo. Congratulations to our South Sudan brothers and sisters.

Flying basketball goes where humans won’t

Its Japanese developers call it the “Futuristic Circular Flying Object” and it’s designed to go where humans can’t.

The radio-controlled sphere, roughly the size of a basketball, was built for search and rescue operations: to fly in and out of buildings weakened by earthquakes or other natural disasters, using its onboard camera to transmit live images of whatever it sees.

The black, open-work ball looks like a futuristic work of art, but it can hover for up to eight minutes and fly at 60 km an hour — although it does slow down for open windows.

Fumiyuki Sato, at the Japanese Defense Ministry’s Technical Research and Development Institute, invented and built the vehicle for roughly $1,390 with parts purchased off the shelf at consumer electronics stores…

It zips through the air, glides smoothly around corners, and negotiates staircases with ease, emitting a soft hum.

Measuring 42 centimeters, it boasts eight maneuverable rudders, 16 spoilers and three gyro sensors to keep it upright and is made of lightweight carbon fiber and styrene components for a total weight of 340 grams…

“When fully developed, it can be used at disaster sites, or anti-terrorism operations or urban warfare,” Sato said. And in the meantime, he adds, there’s the pure fun of testing it.

I want one. When they’re affordable.

Comcast starts banning consumers who move too much data

The end of the internet comes not with a bang or a procession of four lolcats of the apocalypse, but just with two blinking lights on a modem. At least that’s how it came for Andre Vrignaud, a 39-year-old gaming consultant in Seattle, when Comcast shut him off from the internet for using too much data.

Vrignaud, it seems, committed the foul of using more than 250 GB of data on Comcast two months in a row, triggering the company’s overage policy that results in a year-long ban from using its services.

“It’s one of those things I never thought would hit me,” Vrignaud said. “They didn’t even call. I just got double blinking lights on my modem…”

It was the second month in a row that Vrignaud got those blinking lights. The first time he called in and tried to figure out what the problem was.

So he turned off the router he had that was open to the public, and asked his roommate to go a bit lighter on data usage, since his household is heavy on streaming media, including YouTube, NetFlix and Pandora.

What he didn’t count on, Vrignaud said, was that Comcast, who he was paying $60 a month for a 15Mbps download speed, was counting uploads against the quota as well.

Just recently he’d switched his online backup system from Mozy to Carbonite, after Mozy put an end to its unlimited back-up service. Carbonite has no such limit, but does throttle users’ uploads once it hits a high level…

He’s got his music ripped into lossless FLAC format, in addition to lower rates, amounting to about a gig a disc — which he stores in a basement RAID server that can handle 12 TB of data. (He says it has plenty of empty space.)

As an amateur photographer, he saves his photos in RAW format, which can run to about 10MB per image. And when Amazon last week opened up its cloud music service to unlimited storage of music files in AAC, Vrignaud batch-converted his collection and began uploading it.

The music is what he assumes caused the problem, but he’s not sure. He admits to doing a little bittorrenting in the last month, but says it was limited to getting a few episodes of a famous British sci-fi show that’s not totally available in the U.S.

And all Comcast is saying is that he’s kicked off — and under the terms of the ban, he can’t even switch to a uncapped, higher-priced, lower-speed business connection.

Life in the Land of Liberty – where establishing standards based on the needs of ordinary citizens is extremist and offering information services as a public utility is socialist.

Both of those concepts may be correct in their identification. Which is why my feelings aren’t hurt when some dimwit populist hurls such accusations in my direction. That doesn’t alter the needs of modern-day Americans however. If industrial-level capitalism doesn’t meet our needs then it really is time for a change at some level or other.

Do Americans get it when a credit rating agency like Moody’s places our debt rating on a downgrade watch?

But, wait – there’s more. We can do it, again.

Ratings agency Moody’s on Wednesday placed the United States’s triple-A debt rating on a downgrade watch because of rising prospects the US debt limit will not be raised in time to avoid default.

“The review of the US government’s bond rating is prompted by the possibility that the debt limit will not be raised in time to prevent a missed payment of interest or principal on outstanding bonds and notes,” Moody’s said in a statement after the US financial markets closed…

Moody’s recalled that it had announced on June 2 that a rating it would be likely “in mid-July unless there was meaningful progress in negotiations to raise the debt limit…”

The agency insisted that even a brief delay in US payments would likely result in a lower rating.

“An actual default, regardless of duration, would fundamentally alter Moody’s assessment of the timeliness of future payments, and a Aaa rating would likely no longer be appropriate,” it said…

The stalemate in Congress is threatening to push the US into defaulting on its obligations by August 2, according to Treasury estimates.

I realize most Americans don’t know the definitions for when a national economy enters or leaves a recession. Everyone would rather leave it to seat-of-the-pants judgements based on commuter traffic, what your kids’ classmates bring for school lunch or how many families in the neighborhood are in foreclosure.

Even the dummies who yammer about a double-dip recession haven’t learned enough economics to know that once you’ve left a recession for an appreciable spell — and the Great Recession ended in June 2009 according to standard metrics — then another recession added onto what we’ve survived one way or another would be exactly that. Another recession. One you can drop into the lap of the Republican Party as surely as you could the preceding.

Americans – who think there’s no reason to pressure the Congressional thugs who don’t care if the United States defaults on our debts – should step back and ask themselves if they want to go through everything that’s happened to this nation’s economy since December 2007 all over again? Only worse?

Defense attorney fights DOJ demand to open encrypted files

If the government obtains a search warrant to seize your computer and later finds that it cannot get into the device because it is encrypted, does that search warrant require you to produce your password and allow access to investigators?

That is the crux of a case currently being fought between the Department of Justice and a Colorado woman accused of mortgage fraud.

Ramona Camelia Fricosu and her husband, Scott Anthony Whatcott, were indicted last year for preying on people in the Colorado Springs area who were about to lose their homes to foreclosure.

In the course of the investigation, the FBI executed search warrants on Fricosu’s home and seized her Toshiba Satellite M305 laptop. Upon inspection, however, they discovered that the device was encrypted, barring the agents access to its contents.

On May 6, the FBI asked a Colorado district court to compel Fricosu to enter her password into the computer. She did not actually need to tell the government her password; she “could enter the password without being observed,” according to the filing.

Her lawyers, and now the Electronic Frontier Foundation, however, argued that that would be tantamount to self-incrimination. In a Friday filing, the EFF pointed to the Fifth Amendment, which says that “no person … shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.”

“Decrypting data on a computer is a testimonial act that receives the full protection of the Fifth Amendment. This act would incriminate Fricosu because it might reveal she had control over the laptop and the data there,” EFF attorney Marcia Hofmann argued. “The government has failed to show that the existence and location of the information it seeks is a foregone conclusion.”

The government, however, argued that “it is undisputed that the contents of Ms. Fricosu’s encrypted drive are not protected under the Fifth Amendment because the files were created voluntarily and prior to the execution of the search warrant.” The contents of the computer have “evidentiary value,” the filing said.
DOJ went on to say that “public interests will be harmed absent requiring defendants to make available unencrypted contents in circumstances like these.”

Arguing legal points with the Department of Justice unfortunately means you’re aiding in establishing legal precedent which can be warped step-by-step into regulations used to abuse what little legal privacy we have. TSA and other hacks fronting for Homeland Insecurity use similar regs already being fought in courts around this land to steal your property and then require you to aid in that theft.

Though it’s not difficult to see the useful legal ends to which this case might be dedicated, it’s equally clear that our government offers no guarantee against abusive implementation of the same decisions for sleazy political ends.

Sister Wives family ready to challenge Utah polygamy laws

The family featured on the U.S. reality TV series “Sister Wives,” about an advertising executive and four women he calls spouses, is challenging the government’s right to criminalize its lifestyle, the family’s lawyer said.

The family…will challenge Utah’s bigamy statute. It is not trying to get the government to recognize plural marriage, just to stay out of the intimate affairs of consenting adults.

“We are only challenging the right of the state to prosecute people for their private relations and demanding equal treatment with other citizens in living their lives according to their own beliefs,” family attorney Jonathan Turley said in a statement.

“Sister Wives”, which has just concluded its second season, premiered in the U.S. on cable television in September, earning strong ratings while also drawing the attention of authorities in the Utah town of Lehi, south of Salt Lake city, where the family shared a large house.

The show documents the world of Kody Brown, then 41, and the four women he lives with — Meri, Janelle, Christine and Robyn — along with their children, as they seek to fit in with mainstream society while maintaining their religious beliefs in plural marriage.

Brown is legally married to just one of the women, but counts the three others as “sister wives,” a term in polygamous sects that refers to a husband’s multiple marital partners…

Utah law enforcement officials conducted an investigation into the family but no charges have been filed, and their lawyer has previously praised prosecutors for their “commendable discretion and judgment” in the case…

Plural marriage, an early tenant of the Mormon faith and once common in Utah, was renounced by the church more than 150 years ago and outlawed, as it already was in the rest of the country, as Utah was seeking statehood.

Opposing states’ rights to prosecute people for their private relations, demanding equal treatment with other ordinary citizens is something that should be defended by any libertarian, democrat, old-fashioned Christian alike.

All this crap derives from politicians who hope to profit from choosing issues popular with organized [profitable] religions, held as somehow sacred to belief systems roughly akin to the Inquisition – the clown army ready to jail anyone on the spot who actually cares enough to fight to be free from paternalist supervision.