Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Scottish scientists develop whisky biofuel | Environment | guardian.co.uk

A petrol pump Whisky is being used to develop a biofuel which gives 30% more power output than ethanol and could be available at petrol pumps within a few years

It gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "one for the road". Whisky, the spirit that powers the Scottish economy, is being used to develop a new biofuel which could be available at petrol pumps in a few years.

Using samples from the Glenkinchie Distillery in East Lothian, researchers at Edinburgh Napier University have developed a method of producing biofuel from two main by-products of the whisky distilling process – "pot ale", the liquid from the copper stills, and "draff", the spent grains.

Copious quantities of both waste products are produced by the £4bn whisky industry each year, and the scientists say there is real potential for the biofuel, to be available at local garage forecourts alongside traditional fuels. It can be used in conventional cars without adapting their engines. The team also said it could be used to fuel planes and as the basis for chemicals such as acetone, an important solvent.

The new method developed by the team produces butanol, which gives 30% more power output than the traditional biofuel ethanol. It is based on a 100-year-old process that was originally developed to produce butanol and acetone by fermenting sugar. The team has adapted this to use whiskey by-products as a starting point and has filed for a patent to cover the new method. It plans to create a spin-out company to commercialise the invention.

Professor Martin Tangney, who directed the project said that using waste products was more environmentally sustainable than growing crops specifically to generate biofuel. He added that it could contribute significantly to targets set by the EU for biofuels to account for 10% of total fuel sales by 2020.

"What people need to do is stop thinking 'either or'; people need to stop thinking like for like substitution for oil. That's not going to happen. Different things will be needed in different countries. Electric cars will play some role in the market, taking cars off the road could be one of the most important things we ever do."

Dr Richard Dixon, of WWF Scotland, welcomed the project. "The production of some biofuels can cause massive environmental damage to forests and wildlife," he said. "So whisky powered-cars could help Scotland avoid having to use those forest-trashing biofuels."

Posted via email from Tony Burkhart

Your fears confirmed: "up to" broadband speeds are bogus

Broadband providers in the US have long hawked their wares in "up to" terms. You know—"up to" 10Mbps, where "up to" sits like a tiny pebble beside the huge font size of the raw number.

In reality, no one gets these speeds. That's not news to the techno-literate, of course, but a new Federal Communications Commission report (PDF) shines a probing flashlight on the issue and makes a sharp conclusion: broadband users get, on average, a mere 50 percent of that "up to" speed they had hoped to achieve.

After crunching the data, FCC wonks have concluded that ISPs advertised an average (mean) "up to" download speed of 6.7Mbps in 2009. That's not what broadband users got, though.

"However, FCC analysis shows that the median actual speed consumers experienced in the first half of 2009 was roughly 3 Mbps, while the average (mean) actual speed was approximately 4 Mbps," says the report. "Therefore actual download speeds experienced by US consumers appear to lag advertised speeds by roughly 50 percent."

The agency used metrics data from Akamai and comScore to make this determination, though a more accurate direct measurement is currently taking place under FCC auspices. The more accurate measurement will put small boxes in people's homes for weeks at a time, recording actual line speeds in thousands of US homes at all times of the day and night. But, until that data set is complete, Internet traffic data from Akamai and comScore will have to suffice.

When you look at actual speeds, most Americans have fairly slow service
Data source: FCC

The gap between advertisement and reality isn't a function of technology—it applied to all kinds of broadband connections, from cable to DSL to fiber. The less-than-ideal speeds aren't necessarily the "fault" of the ISP, either; crufty computers, poky routers, misconfigured WiFi, transient line noise, and Internet congestion all play a role.

Whatever the cause, though, the FCC has concluded that advertising the "up to" speed is so inaccurate (and so confusing to consumers) that something better should be tried, sort of a "nutrition label" for Internet access. The National Broadband Plan suggested something along these lines and the new FCC report supports the idea, recommending that a standard truth-in-labeling form should be drafted by the FCC, "the National Institute of Standards and Technology, consumer groups, industry and other technical experts."

The FCC has proposed a few example labels of its own:

Example broadband labels (source: FCC)

The New America Foundation last year proposed a standardized "truth-in-labeling" box with far more detail, and it used the new FCC report as a way to pitch its idea once more.

New America Foundation's prototype Schumer Box for broadband customers

For now, broadband buyers should just expect their connections to offer about half the promised maximum speed. If that gets you down, just remember: you aren't in this alone. UK broadband users also see speeds only half as fast as advertised.

Posted via email from Tony Burkhart

Someone Hacks Axl Rose’s Twitter, Cancels Guns N’ Roses Tour

Axl Rose Denies Issuing Press Release On LAX Paparazzi Incident Someone Hacks Axl Roses Twitter, Cancels Guns N Roses Tour

Guns N’ Roses fans had reason to tremble and shudder this morning (and not just from the usual Chinese Democracy flashbacks and nightmares): Axl Rose’s official Twitter let loose with this shocking nugget on Sunday night:

“All upcoming Guns N’ Roses dates are officially cancelled. Please contact your place of purchase for any refunds.”

Well, according to Billboard, it turns out that Rose’s Twitter account had been hacked—Rose himself has not sent a Tweet in three months—and the tour is set, sigh, to continue, despite the disruption the fake announcement caused, as fans who caught the early reports of the tour cancellation are expected to begin demanding refunds.  The band is set to next headline the Reading and Leeds Fests in Europe on August 27th and 29th.

From Billboard:

“’Festival Republic are informed by GN’R management that Guns N’ Roses have NOT canceled their performances at Reading & Leeds and that Axl Rose’s Twitter account was hacked into and all claims of dates being cancelled are unfounded,’ said a Festival Republic statement today.”

So, to review: the tour is still on, and don’t demand a refund for your ticket, unless you’d like to avoid the crushing disappointment of seeing a once great band take your money for two hours of masturbatory and half-assed ‘80s nostalgia.

What do you think of Rose’s Twit-hacking?

Posted via email from Tony Burkhart