Archive for June, 2006

Plug-in Conversion Kits for Hybrid Cars?

Friday, June 30th, 2006

Just some random thoughts about hybrid cars…

I've always been a little interested in alternative fuels, not because I care about the environment, but because I hate the idea of giving so much of my hard-earned income to the bastards at the Big Oil companies.   After some research, I've learned two things:

  1. It's very possible and not very hard to convert a normal car that runs on desiel to a a car that runs on vegetable oil. This is appealing to me because it would allow me to take vegetable oil used by restaurants, that I could presumably get for free since they normally have to pay someone to take it away, and pump it into a car to use as fuel… This would basically mean free fuel for the life of my car.  Of course, the logistics of doing this are a little more complicated.  Still, it's very possible.  By the way, as a side-effect, this causes the converted "grease" cars to get greater gas milage, too.
  2. It's very possible to perform a conversion on a hybrid car to allow it to be plugged in at night, thus supplementing the power it would normally have to get from the gasoline engine.  This is interesting to me because it would give me the choice of using energy from the power grid for my travel around town, which makes up a vast majority of what I use my car for.  If I was interested in the environment, I'd probably also be thrilled with the fact that I'd be using hydroelectric, nuclear, and coal as a source of energy instead of crude oil, but again, I'm more concerned about choosing where my money goes rather than how it impacts the environment.

So here we have two very interesting but very different approaches to channeling my weekly energy tithe away from Big Oil.  You could take the latter approach a step further and get a solar panel to plug your car into, but I haven't investigated the wattage requirements of a plug-in hybrid nor the cost of a solar panel large enough to meet said requirements.

But what if they came out with a desiel hybrid?  It would then, in theory, be possible to have a vegetable-oil-powered vehicle that could be plugged-in at night.  You'd never need traditional fuel at all, and depending on your driving habits, you wouldn't really need much vegitable oil either.  Interesting stuff.

Why don’t we have Electric Cars?

Friday, June 30th, 2006

Ever wonder why it is that we have so many alternative sources of fuel but still don't see companies cropping up all over the place to promote and profit from them?  It doesn't seem to makes sense.

Well, Chris Paine, the creator of the movie Who Killed the Electric Car? seem to have a sensible answer.  Check out the plot summary from IMDB:

With gasoline prices approaching $4/gallon, fossil fuel shortages, unrest in oil producing regions around the globe and mainstream consumer adoption and adoption of the hybrid electric car (more than 140,000 Prius' sold this year), this story couldn't be more relevant or important. The foremost goal in making this movie is to educate and enlighten audiences with the story of this car, its place in history and in the larger story of our car culture and how it enables our continuing addiction to foreign oil. This is an important film with an important message that not only calls to task the officials who squelched the Zero Emission Vehicle mandate, but all of the other accomplices, government, the car companies, Big Oil, even Eco-darling Hydrogen as well as consumers, who turned their backs on the car and embrace embracing instead the SUV. Our documentary investigates the death and resurrection of the electric car, as well as the role of renewable energy and sustainable living in our country's future; issues which affect everyone from progressive liberals to the neo-conservative right.

Check out the trailer at Sony's website by clicking here.

Click here to see an interview with the film creator and a half-hour summary of the story.

U.S. Citizenship Test

Wednesday, June 28th, 2006

After all this talk about how hard it is to pass the citizenship test, I was shocked when I took a peek at the actual test.  It turns out it's not so hard after all.  I scored an 85% without cheating, and that's just from what I learned in middle school and high school… it only takes an 80% to pass, and people trying to become citizens have a chance to study before hand!

Click here to take the test yourself.

If you're an American and you end up scoring below a 70, please kindly renounce your citizenship and leave my country.

Cheap Bootable Optical Drives for Toshiba Tablet PCs

Wednesday, June 21st, 2006

So, if you've purchased one of the Tablet PCs Toshiba makes and tried booting from an external CD or DVD ROM that Toshiba doesn't make, you already know that it can't be done.  As it turns out, only a small number of optical drives are actually bootable on these things, and different drives are supported on different models.  To save you the headache, here's a list of supported drives.  Not only that, I've scoured the net for the cheapest place to purchase them and included links below.

Portege M200

  • Toshiba CD-RW/DVD-ROM Combo Drive (PA3352U-1CD2) (Currently $69 through this link only)
  • Toshiba DVD Super Multi-Drive USB 2.0 (PA3401U-1DV2)
  • Targus Slim Line DVD/CD-ROM PC Card Drive (NWDVD04)
  • Targus Slim Line DVD/CD-ROM PC Card Drive (NWDVD03)
  • Toshiba DVD/CD-ROM PC Card Drive (PA3246U-1DVD)
  • Targus USB 2.0 DVD/CD-RW Slim External (PACMB010U)
  • Tablet PC Multi Dock (PA3315U-1PRP)

Portege 3500/3505

  • Targus Slim Line DVD/CD-ROM PC Card Drive (NWDVD04)
  • Targus Slim Line DVD/CD-ROM PC Card Drive (NWDVD03)
  • Toshiba DVD/CD-ROM PC Card Drive (PA3246U-1DVD

Portege 2000

  • Targus PC Card DVD/CD-ROM Drive (PA950U)
  • Targus PC Card DVD/CD-ROM Drive (NW24XCD)
  • PORT-NoteWorthy Enhanced Slimline DVD/CD-ROM PC Card Drive (NWDVDPR)

I've heard of others working, but these are the only ones officially supported by Toshiba.  When I know for sure another drive works, I'll update the list.  Please let me know if you've tested one that's not on this list.

Fixing the Firefox Memory Leak

Sunday, June 11th, 2006

Ever notice how surfing sessions with Firefox start out fast and slow to a crawl as Firefox eats more and more memory?  Well, it took a while, but I did.  As we speak, my copy of Firefox is taking up over 270MB of RAM! WTF?  A little research revealed that this is due to a memory leak that was never fixed.  Here's a list of things you can do to minimize the problem:

  1. The first course of action is not a change in settings, rather the first thing you should do is check this list to see if any plugins you have installed are on them.  In my case, I was running the official copy of the Google Toolbar, which has a known memory leak.  This is most likely the true source of my memory problems, not the browser itself.  I was able to uninstall the official Google Toolbar and install the unofficial Googlebar as well as a PageRank addon , to make up for the fact that the unofficial Googlebar doesn't show PageRank.  By the way, I installed these separately instead of using the combined PRGoogleBar because the Googlebar project seems to be more up to day in terms of development.
  2. Start tweaking settings.  By default, browser.sessionhistory.max_total_viewers is set to -1, which means that Firefox will try to determine a good value based on the total amount of RAM you have in your system.  The following table shows what value Firefox will choose based on your total RAM:

    32MB 0
    64MB 1
    128MB 2
    256MB 3
    512MB 5
    1GB 8
    2GB 8
    4GB 8

    I have 512MB of RAM in my Laptop/Tablet PC system, so Firefox would choose a value of 5.  The higher this value is, the more memory Firefox will consume when I use alot of tabs at one, which I do often.  Lowering this value causes less memory to be used but also causes more previously visited pages to have to be re-parsed (thus increasing their load time).  I decided to hardcode this to 2 instead.  A value of 3 may be a better idea, but I want the effects of these changes to be as clear as possible.  By the way, you can access these settings by typing "about:config" into your address bar, without the quotes, and pressing Enter.

  3. There are other values that could be adjusted like browser.cache.memory.capacity and config.trim_on_minimize, but the former already has a pretty small value, and the latter only takes effect while Firefox is minimized, which isn't good enough for me.

Well, that's it.  Good luck.  Be sure to post a comment and let me know how it went.

NSA To Spy On Social Networking Sites (ie. MySpace)

Friday, June 9th, 2006

Did you ever think that the US government would gather data from websites like MySpace, Facebook, or LiveJournal to learn more about you?  If not, an article New Scientist is currently running will undoubtedly surprise you.  From the article:

"New Scientist has discovered that Pentagon's National Security Agency, which specializes in eavesdropping and code-breaking, is funding research into the mass harvesting of the information that people post about themselves on social networks. And it could harness advances in internet technology…to combine data from social networking websites with details such as banking, retail and property records, allowing the NSA to build extensive, all-embracing personal profiles of individuals."

Pretty scary, ehh? What bothers me about this isn't really that the NSA is taking public information, putting it into a database, and trying to connect to dots.  What bothers me is that it doesn't make sense to datamine MySpace for terrorist… So why are they doing it?  It's not like the people who bombed the WTC had MySpace profiles… Who are they trying to monitor?

Switching from b2evolution to WordPress

Thursday, June 8th, 2006

Like many others, I’ve decided to ditch b2evolution in favor of WordPress.  The biggest reasons were:

  1. b2evolution has almost no protection against spam.  They have this goofy little centralized blacklist that’s maintained by one person and never seems to be up to date.  I had over 4,000 spam comments that I had to painstakingly clean out last night.  It took me four hours and this isn’t the first time that’s happened.
  2. The development of b2evolution is not going anywhere anytime soon.

Now that the switch is over with, I’m extremely glad I made the switch.  Installing WordPress was the most painless PHP/MySQL install I’ve ever done with anything.  Ever.  The interface is clean and robust.  All of the feature you would expect it to have are included, and installing a plugin is as simple of copying a file or directory with an SFTP client.  Very cool.

For those who are considering taking the plunge, I’ll tell you now that WordPress won’t import b2evolution posts and comments without an additional script, but that’s not too hard to find, and I can make the script available upon request.

The only thing that still concerns me is my permlink URL.  My first problem is that I can’t get mod_rewrite to act correctly… I may be doing something wrong with .htaccess but I’ll have to mess with it more to see.  My second problem is that since my old blog is now offline (with this one in its place) I’m not entirely certain what format my old permlinks used to take.  I’ll get it worked out.  Anyway, I if you’re still using b2evolution, I suggest you switch.