Thursday, March 12, 2009

7 GEN Newsletter #2: Clean Coal, Clean Sustainability Technology, and what happens when you put 2gb of flash memory in a pen

This is the second newsletter issue from I am restarting publishing newsletter issues and I hope to get into a regular monthly schedule. Unfortunately I skipped a month due to life issues.


Since the last issue the Obama administration came into office (finally) and began their wave of Change. Hopefully their brand of Change is truly what we can believe in. Most of the changes I hear are good and what I believe in. But some are bothersome.

There's a debate in the news about what to do in regard to the past sins of the Bush Administration. I have long called for Impeachment of the Bush Administration but that didn't happen. And I am firmly of the opinion that the Bush Administration did many illegal, immoral, impeachable acts while in office. And that some of the changes enacted by the Bush Administration were incredibly damaging to the purpose of the U.S.A.

Some recent articles say that under the Bush Administration we were technically living under a dictatorship. During that era I'd hear and dismiss statements like that thinking they were hyperbole. But technically the U.S. legal system was undermined with claims of arbitrary power by the Bush Administration, that the Administration could choose to ignore any law it pleased, and that for example with the 'Enemy Combatant' system they could make up whole extra-judicial systems on the whim of their crazy legal theories.

It seems the general trend is to "move on" and put the past behind us. But leaving illegal acts by a U.S. President stand without prosecuting those illegal acts can serve as precedent by future Presidents to also claim those same powers. I believe it is dangerous to simply move on and forget the past. Otherwise the precedent set by the Bush Administration will haunt us and bite us in the butt in the future. I believe it is better to take some real solid action to make it abundantly clear that many of the changes enacted by the Bush Administration were counter to the goals of the U.S.A., and that the citizens of the U.S.A. will not permit those things to remain as a valid precedent.

Keeping with the Change theme. The word 'Change' is very general. The Bush Administration could well have described their Changes as Change that 'We' can believe in (for some definition of 'we'). It seems the U.S.A. has two extreme polar camps of belief and that for some of the U.S.A. citizens they believed in the Bush Administration changes.

Change simply means making things different than they were before. The Obama Campaign promised Change. Change to What?

Coal, and Clean Coal

A particular Change they seem to want is the use of Clean Coal technology. I don't understand Clean Coal well enough but have heard it dismissed as a fantasy land fabricated from hopes and pushed by the Coal Industry to keep themselves in business. But the proponents of Clean Coal hold high hopes for it. And the Obama Administration has been making statements in support of Clean Coal. It should help one to remember that Obama comes from Illinois, a state rich in Coal deposits, making it possible that Obama has been influenced by Coal interests in his home state.

I'm studying up on Coal and have begun a handbook section on Clean Coal? Misnomer?

Clean Green Technology? Sustainable Technology?

Another idea I want to know more about is the definition of Green Technology. There's a lot of talk about how Green Jobs will save America setting off a wave of building new industries and companies and the jobs which will go along with that. I certainly prefer that vision over the Bush Administration vision of turning America into a war mongering military state where military industries are the growth area.

But I find the phrase 'Green Technology' to be very unspecific. What is 'Green' besides a color? What would Purple Technology be?

My latest podcast episode looks into this: Technosanity #23: Defining green technology and sustainable technology

Some green sustainable products

I have also spent some time researching Green and carbon neutral web hosting providers and wrote a blog posting on Green businesses need green infrastructure and need green web hosting. Green businesses probably have a purpose of offering products or services that aid us in being sustainable. This means we, as business owners promoting sustainability, should also be using sustainable services for our business. That includes our web hosting arrangements.

I personally satisfy much of my personal transportation needs with an electric bicycle. I use it for grocery shopping runs and around town trips. I recently measured the electric bicycle to have 1120 miles/gallon fuel efficiency. And I have also produced a couple podcast episodes about Electric bicycle conversion kits


What happens when you embed a camera, a computer, and 2gb of flash memory in a pen? The result costs a pretty penny, is pretty chunky, but has amazing powers of dictation and recall.

The result is the Livescribe 2GB Pulse Smartpen (APA-00002)

The Livescribe Smartpen is a rather thick pen that you absolutely do not want to lose as it costs a lot more than a regular pen. Embedded in the pen is a small camera, an audio recorder, a speaker, a computer, 2gb of flash memory, and connections allowing you to dock the pen with a computer.

The pen knows what you wrote because it tracks the pen motions you make. They require that you use special paper which has microdots on the surface encoding identifier marks on the paper which tell the pen which page is being written on, as well as where on the page the writing is occurring. The paper looks and feels like regular paper, it simply has these identifying microdots. They sell notebooks with the special paper and you can easily flip back and forth between pages at random, writing on the pages at random, and the pen just keeps track for you with no fuss. This is because each page has identifying microdots and the pen simply recognizes, automatically, which page you're scribbling on.

The audio recorder and playback is also very interesting. The pen can record what's happening around you while you're writing. Are you in a meeting and racing to take notes? It's much easier this way because the pen records the spoken part, you write whatever you can in real time, and you can easily go back over it later to recall more of the discussion. It should also work for students taking notes in a classroom, the pen records the lecture and the student writes whatever they can and can go back over the lecture later without having to struggle to remember what the heck the teacher said.

If you double click the pen on your notes (later), the pen plays back precisely what was spoken at the time you wrote those notes.

An interesting variation is as a writing assistant. For example while brainstorming I like to speak the ideas out loud and then I've found it difficult to remember and write down quite what I said. With this pen I can be talking and writing at the same time and the pen records both parts of the brainstorming. Plus its user interface is very natural to use because, well, it is first and foremost a pen. The audio recorder doesn't interfere with its use as a pen, you simply write and it records both audio and writing.

For years the technologists have said computer technology would bury itself in the woodwork and we'd see a new wave of incredible devices. The livescribe Smartpen is clearly one of these new incredible devices. Massive computing power is embedded in a lowly ink pen, giving the pen advanced capabilities.

Unfortunately the pen also costs quite a bit. This pen is not disposable and clearly its price means you'd better make sure not to lose this pen. However I'm very happy with mine so far.


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