So, recently I have, on two occasions ended up discussing the pro’s and con’s of different power generation systems. I thought it might be helpful to capture some of the arguments here and have a place where follow-ups could be noted. Some of the balance of the argument depends on geography, some on natural resources and sustainability over the long-term. I might have made some mistakes, so I would appreciate any input.

Fossil Fuels

Fossil fuel thus not long-term sustainable, they are created from ancient organic materials which have been compressed and baked until they turn into a combustable solid, liquid or gas. It takes millions of years to produce these materials and they cannot be replaced in the lifetime of our civilisation. Continous supply of energy as long as it is needed and possible to reduce output to match demand.

1) Natural Gas Fired

Western European countries Gas fields are increasingly depleated. Cleaner burning than many other fossil fuels and relatively efficient conversion to electricity. Scales from domestic generator to power-station with good efficiency.

2) Coal Fired

Mining coal is either a difficult and dangerous operation under ground, or it can be strip mined which leaves significant scaring on the landscape. Burning coal is relatively dirty.

3) Oil Fired

Difficult and dangerous extraction as shown by the Gulf of Mexico. Quite dirty generation.

Atomic / Nuclear

Typically continous supply which is quite reliable to meet demand, but may also be wasteful if the energy is not needed off-peak.

1) Uranium Fast Breeder Reactor

Principles designed over 50 years ago for a different age, sponsored by government because the by-product is weapons grade radioactive isotopes. Easy to generate large ammounts of electricity. Expensive plant design, long-term safety implications and difficult end-of-life management for the facility. Financially difficult to justify because of the end-of-life implications but with subsidies possibly one of the most powerful continous supply generators.

2) Thorium Molten Salt Reactor

Thorium is much more efficient to extract than Uranium and relatively safe to handle. When embedded in molten halide salts then it can easily be deactivated in the case of difficulties. The isotopes it produces have a fairly safe half-life and are not very radioactive. Also because the radioactive material is contained in a liquid it cannot suffer from physical stressing like a solid fuel.

Environmental Power

1) Wind turbines

Subject to mechanical stresses, so requires difficult maintenance. However can be constructed from sustainable materials and can be recycled. Heavy bases need to be constructed with concrete but can be reused. Not dependable and predictable, cannot be adjusted to meet a growth in demand. Subject to the availability of heavy winds, with no wind there is no power generated and has to be shut down in excessive wind. Possible environmental impact to wildlife, particularly birds, and some visual/noise impact. Good energy transfer from the mechanical wind to electricity.

2) Photovoltaic

Produced from a silicon chemical substrate, environmental impact in production and risk of pollution. Poor efficiency compared to carbon impact of manufacturing and transport. Power output is subject to the availability of good levels of sun.

3) Solar-thermal-electric

By focusing the sun on a boiler or Sterling generator a clean and sustainable electricity is generated. Subject to sun availability and still difficult to transfer but with potentially less polution in manufacturing than alternatives.

4) Geo-thermal

Using the heat of the earth to produce steam and generate electricity. Dependable source of energy, subject to regional effectiveness where pockets of hot earth are available for use.

5) Tidal/wave energy

Use of the power of the sea to turn generators. This is a very powerful and clean form of energy, in areas like the British Isles a fairly consistent output can be given. Probable environmental impacts on fishing and wildlife. There is enough sea energy on the west coast of Ireland to power the entire British Isles demands for energy.

6) Hydroelectric

Requires a massive geo-engineering effort involving large ammounts of concrete which has a highly polluting production. However once constructed it can have a long lifespan of clean production.

Bio Fuels

Biofuels are sources which can be burnt to release their energy which was usually gathered through the growing of plant materials. The carbon released is almost as much as that which was consumed in the growth. However this is at the sacrifice of land which can be used for growing food, with world food shortages it is a shame to be burning crops for energy.

Last weekend I had a loss of connection and while diagnosing I started a ping to see what was alive, I forgot about it and here is the output 6 days later:

— 208.67.222.222 ping statistics —
363846 packets transmitted, 335684 received, +1 duplicates, +2 errors, 7% packet loss, time 512087867ms
rtt min/avg/max/mdev = 13.156/19.034/1042.580/12.497 ms, pipe 2

Sorry OpenDNS, it was an accident!

There is a theme running through the questions that I have been asked lately about some aspects of technology and that is the questions as to if a new technology will “dominate”. Now, I’m not talking new tech of the class like “the mobile phone”, but I am talking about some new gizmo, new software structure, or new web-based service. In this article I want to comment on this phenomena and what I think of it:
Continue reading “Giant Killers in Technology”

This is a transcript of a speech I gave at the Westminster eForum in London about the future of television in the home. I thought I should share it…

Continue reading “Beyond next generation HD and web-enabled TV”

I am now on my second Lenovo machine and I have to say I love the physical build quality and capabilities of these products. However one thing bugs me and that is the bundled productivity software that comes with a new laptop, most notably on the Lenovo products is Think Suite. This is a set of tools that comes with a Lenovo (formerly IBM) computer and deals with things like the function keys, the on screen display of indications (such as display brightness and volume) and most significantly network connection management. It is worth noting that almost every Microsoft Windows laptop sold, from Samsung to HP, has some sort of detritus installed to increase your productivity. I think it was about 13 years ago a friend asked my family to help him buy a really top-notch PC, and the best thing on the market at that time seemed to be the IBM Aptiva Stealth and thus we facilitated the purchase. It was really impressive, in matt black with a separate monitor base/stand with a CD-Rom, a disk drive and a power switch all built-in matching the very good (and very black) monitor. After wrestling with the Windows 95 and it’s extensive IBM customisations they actually returned the unit and we custom built a “beige box” with twice the performance for the same price. Now we are in the era of Windows 7 and the problem is that the productivity tools seem to have grown more tentacles and seem to fight even more with the Windows native tools than ever before. Continue reading “Lenovo Think!”

So, I was speaking today with a revenue duty specialist about the definition of products and something came up which disturbed me and it was the EC definition of a modem:

Modems modulate and demodulate outgoing as well as incoming data signals. 
This enables bidirectional communication for the purposes of gaining access 
to the Internet. Examples of such modems are: V.34-, V.90-, V.92-, DSL- or 
cable modems. An indication of the presence of such a modem is an RJ-11 
connector.
Devices performing a similar function to that of a modem but which do not
modulate and demodulate signals are not considered to be modems. 
Examples of such apparatus are ISDN-, WLAN- or Ethernet devices. 
An indication of the presence of such a device is an RJ 45 connector.

It seems to me that the definition of a modem is rather messed up and this paragraph is trying to achieve something else than the wording says. If any technology student saw this they would be very confused because WLAN (Wifi) is clearly modulated and so are ISDN and Ethernet to some extent.

 

I just had an idea and I think it might be rather cool…

So, I was reading the morning’s blogs/news/etc. and I came across an article in which the author had clearly just mistyped the sentence “but the company has said” instead saying “but then company has said”. This made me think, in these days of the social web editors and the distribution chain are spending less time proof reading, in addition there are a greater number of people who are less extensively educated being involved (I think we can all agree that education is less strict at the bottom echelons). Personally I don’t think my standard of English is bad but at the same time I know I regularly make mistakes while typing and that there are doubtless many errors that I don’t pick up on (my family occasionally corrects me). Continue reading “Correcting The Social Web”

This is a proposal I am working on with some people, I have put it here because it might protect me a little to have it published online:

 

Continue reading “Virtualised broadcast infrastructure”

We haven’t been out to the theatre for a while and we really wanted to get something in before year end. The cinema was really the easiest choice so we decided to catch a film which has been making a fair bit of noise lately: “Avatar” by James Cameron staring Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana and Sigourney Weaver.

Continue reading “Avatar 3D: My Opinion and Review”